Around the world in a day

Musicians come together to teach, learn and jam

Volume 114, No. 5May, 2014

David Sheldon

Writing music for world instruments was the topic of a recent seminar co-produced by Local 802 and the New York chapter of the Society of Composers and Lyricists. The evening was the second in a series called “Exotic Instruments, Indigenous Musicians: A New York Composer’s Guide to Writing World Music.” Musicians included Yacouba Sissoko (kora), Reinaldo DeJesus (percussion), Vin Scialla (riq), John La Barbara (oud) and Valerie Naranjo (yil).
After an introductory discussion covering Local 802 and AFM’s efforts to bring more scoring for film and television under union agreements – as well as the New York State tax incentives for composing in New York – the guest musicians plunged into a lecture-demonstration of each of their instruments.
Each player presented several typical pieces of music, discussed the technical requirements of writing for his or her instrument, and took questions on history, notation, idiomatic writing and other subjects. Since each player was a virtuoso, the talks could have gone on for several hours each, and the conversation was only cut short to make time for an improvised performance from the musicians.
“No one has ever heard this before!” said one excited listener from the audience.
Greg Pliska, composer and member of the steering committee of the society, described this as the kind of unique event you can only see in New York City.
“Where else in the world would you find a kora virtuoso who learned the instrument as part of a multi-generational family tradition, alongside one of the few Westerners to have mastered the gyil, along with a percussionist who specializes in playing simultaneously drums from three continents,” said Pliska. “We are extraordinarily fortunate to be able to partner with Local 802 on events like this, celebrating live music and live musicians,” he continued. “They are irreplaceable.” Next year’s presentation in this series is already under discussion.
The Society of Composers and Lyricists is the nonprofit and primary organization for professional film, TV, and video game composers and lyricists, with a 65-year history. Local 802 and SCL first worked together to convene a composer’s conference on AFM agreements in June 2010.
A joint committee is being formed to further the outreach of Local 802’s initiative in New York film scoring. Another event now being planned for the fall will once again focus on AFM agreements and scoring work in New York.