April 16, 2010
Most performed Americans
The League of American Orchestras has released their always-interesting list of the most-performed American composers. The rankings are only for orchestral performances, which makes them especially eye-opening when you compare these numbers to, say, band numbers. These numbers are for 2008-2009. Here are the top 5 living American composers, and their total number of American orchestral performances:
1: John Adams — 52 performances
2: Jennifer Higdon — 49 performances
3: Michael Daugherty — 34 performances
4: John Corigliano — 32 performances
5: John Williams — 31 performances
(You can see a more complete list here.)
I’ve written before about the whole “band vs. orchestra” thing, but here, comparing the numbers is kind of shocking. During the 2008-2009 season, John Adams had 52 performances by orchestras in the United States. From his entire catalog. This year, Asphalt Cocktail has 70 scheduled performances. That’s one band piece. Point: band.
Also of note is the Boosey & Hawkes list of their most-performed pieces of the past decade. Michael Daugherty’s piece for timpani and symphonic band (and also arranged for orchestra) “Raise the Roof” is number 8 on Boosey’s decade list, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of those 67 performances are from bands, not orchestras. At number 2, it’s Christopher Rouse’s orchestra piece, “Rapture.” Since 2000, it has had 97 performances.
At number one, though — and this is only considering works published by Boosey & Hawkes — is Karl Jenkins Requiem. How many performances in the past decade? 311. 311! I feel pretty out-of-touch for not even knowing the piece existed.
The lesson here? If you’re a composer and you want to have at least the potential for a large number of performances, write for band. But if you want to really get a shitload of performances, write a requiem!
Apparently everybody loves a requiem.
As a musician who was formerly on a professional musician career path, I find this post extremely informative. If you are a composer and you want your music to be heard and performed, write for band. This is why John Mackey has been writing for band so much these days. Go John! (As an aside, my youth orchestra worked with John about 11 years ago.)