I use twitter, and I do enjoy it. Some seem to think it’s the end-all, though, and I’m not going there.

Recently there’s been a big “#DWG” thread. On twitter anything that begins with the pound (or number) sign is a hashtag that you can then click on and follow #DWG stands for “Dead White Guys” and it’s about the composers that so many love to hate. Or at least think should be put to rest. Some Tweetfolk were whining because new music is ignored and #DWG music is played over and over. Some composers on Twitter are disgruntled because their music isn’t being played. Some women — as well as their male cheerleaders — are complaining because they are underrepresented.

So they are grumbling. A lot. I understand their complaints, and I hope that more new music and more women composers will be represented in our programs. A good dialogue about these things is not a bad thing.

But when it moved to certain things I did get frustrated. Here’s a bit of a “conversation”:

[twitter ID removed]: Donors are more interested in the act of going to concerts than new music. #DWG

I responded with this:

That seems like a huge blanket statement to me. #DWG

To which the young writer replied:

#DWG No doubt, but I feel that sociologically, it’s true. Most donors know comparatively little about music, but…

…they like going to concerts. When they go, they expect the concert to sound like “classical” music.

I saw more tweets that were mainly putting down anyone who doesn’t care for more contemporary music. It seemed to become a we know better and everyone else is an idiot sort of thing. It seems were mostly just taking glee in being annoyed. Or something.

I haven’t joined in much since then. Earlier I had been involved, suggesting that there were a number of issues that caused this older music to be performed. But I’m not sure people are listening as much as spouting off their own thoughts. And maybe I’m the same.

In fact, here are just some random thoughts ‐ these aren’t absolute “truths” but just what I believe to be true ‐ I’ll toss out safely on my little blog (most Twitterfolk don’t read this thing):

  • People frequently like music that they are comfortable with.
  • Older music often makes people very comfortable.
  • There is nothing wrong with being comfortable.
  • People sometimes are pleasantly surprised by music they thought they wouldn’t like.
  • People sometimes hate music they thought they wouldn’t like, but it might stretch them a bit.
  • There is nothing wrong with being stretched every so often.
  • If all people hear is music that causes discomfort they’ll give up on a group.
  • Attempting to stretch the audience all the time will probably cause problems.
  • It’s true that some (NOT ALL!) donors prefer older music.
  • And money does talk, whether we like it or not.
  • We need generous donors.
  • Appreciating donors is a good thing.
  • Making fun of donors is a bad thing.
  • Younger people aren’t as likely to donate money.
  • Doing newer music is costly for reasons other than possible loss of audience and donors.
  • Older music is often already in our symphony music libraries. Cost is minimal.
  • Contemporary music is rental only and can be incredibly costly.

This last point is not often thought about by the general public, as so many are unaware of costs involved. Rental music can be expensive. Sometimes we can’t even rent something because the publisher won’t let us. We are charged for the number of performances and amount of rental time required (music must be sent out early enough to get bowings done, and this isn’t just a week long process!) and sometimes also charged on the organization’s operating budget; it’s not just a flat fee. When we did a ballet I learned that we were charged a rental fee based on the size of the house as well as number of performances and rental time necessary.

So there are a number of issues. And I’m sure I’m not even hitting all them. Nor am I able to come up with good answers for the problems. Sorry … just tossing out the issues and then I come up pretty empty for answers. Typical me!

I’m not saying I don’t think orchestras should not attempt to do more new music, but these days we are all having to be cautious. Have you seen the number of orchestras that have cut back a lot or died completely?

But, mostly, what I was getting frustrated with was the arrogance of some people who tweet. Some appear to have great disdain for the wealthy. It feels as if they look down their noses at the #DWG. I feel as if they think they know a lot more than some of us who have been doing this for a lot of years. And yes, I am careful to say this is how they appear to me. I could easily be misreading. I do that a lot! But what are they doing other than tweeting about it? I’m really not sure. I hope they are donating money. I hope they are promoting new music and women composers in a worthwhile way. Twitter might cause some to wake up, but I don’t believe it will change the music business. (Of course maybe I’m wrong; some seem to give Twitter and Facebook all the credit for the change in Egypt. Hmm.)

It appears that the #DWG topic is dying down now … I wonder what we’ll all move on to next.

Okay … this is a rather discombobulated pattyramble™. But hey, at least I wrote something. I’ve been rather bad about actually doing some thinking here recently.


  1. The #DWG thread on twitter really bummed me out, too. It seems to me that drama, hostility, and unproductive arguments regularly surge up among people who are committed to and passionate about the classical music world. In my opinion, this energy would be much more usefully and healthily spent engaging with people outside our bubble to share how great music is, whether it was written by a “dead white guy” or a woman who’s living today or anyone else.

  2. Oh I’m SO glad to read this, Andy! I know of one other who was really frustrated, but it seemed so many were taking glee in the negativity. Thanks for commenting here. It is very much appreciated!

  3. The Twitter and Facebook crowd (and I’m not one, so I speak as an observer) seem to live in the moment more than the historical flow. I’ve now reached an age where I have an historical perspective of my own.

    When I first broke into this business in the late ’50s there were no women composers (‘cept maybe Clara Schumann and nobody played her stuff), and darned few women symphony musicians. I knew of no Black classical musicians except Elaine Jones, tympanist in the San Francisco Symphony, who broke ground on two fronts… There was very little contemporary music beyond Stravinski, conducted by Robert Craft.

    Today’s symphonic ensembles are color blind, sexualy homogeneous, and prone to commissioning new works on a regular basis (like San Francisco commissioning Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Colored Field” for Julie-Ann Giocobassi, their EH Player).

    A snapshot of the moment might not give you the mix you consider ideal, but change IS happening at an exponentially increasing rate. If the Twitter crowd would just really look around them I’m sure they’d have less to whine about.

    #DWG – HUMPH!!

  4. I’ve noticed a certain amount of hypocrisy regarding people’s attitude toward the wealthy. They criticize them, but then turn around and are happy to take their money. Or they denounce the pursuit of wealth as somehow immoral, but are very happy acquire the things that money can buy!

  5. Thanks Bob and Gabrielle, for jumping in here.

    Btw, I’m currently reading the book about Tabuteau … talk about changes! What a book. full of so much information, but frightening in the way that people were treated. It’s really something!

    Bob, there are certainly been huge changes and things will continue to change. Some are just not terribly patient … and, I fear, they are also rather content when they can complain and point fingers.

    And YES, Gabrielle! I’ve seen this quite a bit. It’s really troubling.

    But of course I can see hypocrisy in myself as well, so I am trying hard to be understanding. Sort of. A little. ;-)