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First Report

The Musical Ecologies First Biennial Report

I started Musical Ecologies in the summer of 2012 in an effort to address two particular needs. The first was my own need for conversation about music. As anyone in New York who’s interested in music knows, there is no shortage of opportunities to hear music, really too many opportunities, but somehow having substantive in-depth conversations about the music around us is often elusive. Perhaps it’s the pace of life in our city, or a guarded sense of careerism that inhibits our getting into long talks about music. Whatever the cause, though I tend to favor the former explanation, I found this growing need increasingly unmet. So I created this series – that way I can have an in-depth conversation with someone whose music interests me at least once a month!

The other need was for a small, quiet, intimate space for new music. In recent years the landscape for new music in New York has seen some major changes. Many of the spaces I developed connections with changed, moved or disappeared, leaving a void that still does not seem to have been adequately filled. And so again, by creating this series I hoped to begin to fill that void – at least this way there will be one event each month that interests me and which takes place in a small, quiet and intimate setting!

I’m happy to report then, that after two full seasons and twenty events, the plan seems to be working! Admittedly I think I have been the biggest beneficiary here, but I’d like to believe that the artists who have participated have also been served, and for the most part the feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Though we still often have some seats available, attendance has been strong, both from friends and colleagues from the wider musical community as well as members of the immediate Park Slope community.

In addition to the artists we have hosted, many people have helped make Musical Ecologies possible. First and foremost, a huge thanks you to Kim Maier, the Executive Director of the Old Stone House who has been unwavering in her support of this project and without whom none of this would be possible. Thank you Kim! And also thank you to the House staff which includes Maggie Weber and Mina Jones and to my wife and partner Claudia who has helped in ways both measurable and immeasurable. So again, thank you to everyone.

We’ve had a great two years of music in this wonderful space, including a number of premieres and new collaborations, we’ve taken a lot of pictures and videos, drank a lot of wine and had some great conversations, many of which incidentally, are archived on our website musicalecologies.net. We also have an email list and Facebook page both of which you can find from the website. And we look forward to another season beginning in September!

So that’s the basic gist of the “Report” – the news is all good! Yay! But before we get go on the next part of the evening, I want to talk briefly about the concept of “musical ecologies” because it’s a key part of what we are doing here and trying to understand.  This is after all, a symposium, and that is our working topic.

My interest in the natural world – in birds, trees, plants, animals, insects, water and landscapes, ie: ecology – has always existed in parallel to my enthusiasm for music, and there has certainly been an ongoing dialogue between the two over the years in my own mind and increasingly in the wider world. But it was with the conjoining of these two concepts/words to form “Musical Ecologies” that I have really begun to integrate the two worlds in a meaningful way. As I continue to organize these events, exploring the work of a great many artists, hearing different kinds of presentations, I increasingly see the music scene as a kind of ecosystem of interconnected communities in constant interaction with the environment. The working definition of ecology is basically “the science of the relationships between organisms and their environments.” Add a tablespoon of musicology – “the scholarly study of music, wherever it is found historically or geographically” and you have Musical Ecologies!

For the most part we have focused on our immediate locale, though we have had the occasional guest from out of town, and we’ve been investigating how musical communities and traditions find expression today in our musical ecosystem, and what can we learn from them. And I know I have certainly learned A LOT. But perhaps most importantly, I’ve come to think of our space here as an extension of our immediate neighborhood, with it’s vast and lush canopy of trees which connect from the park outside all the way to the woods and meadows of Prospect Park on one end and to the estuary and canal and outward to the New York harbor on the other. So, in the same way that our neighborhood provides a safe oasis throughout the year for an amazing variety of migratory birds who pass through on their way to other places near and far, so our series might provide a safe oasis to musicians travel along on their artistic journeys.

Dan Joseph, 6/12/14

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