An interview with Dan Tramte – creator of Score Follower channel on youtube (part 2)
This is the second part of the at-length Q&A with Dan Tramte, creator of „Score Follower“ channel on youtube, also including some fascinating video recommendations!
7) What is the main motivation for you and your team?
The internet is filled with people doing grind work for little-to-no monetary reward, and I think that sometimes confuses people who equate work/time with money. It’s not just YouTube. There are media & software pirates who go through the effort and risk of stealing just to experience that feel-good ‘Robin Hood’ sensation of giving to the people. While we are not stealing, we love being the ones who are providing new music to the public for the same reasons. Not to mention, when we see people hitting the like button, sharing our videos on Facebook and Twitter, and writing such positive comments, it reminds us that we are doing something worth our time.
Also, we know we’re making an impact on the new music scene. Here are some rather bold claims that we list on our website:
• Hundreds—maybe even thousands—of music professors around the world use our videos in the classroom.
• Major ensembles program works by lesser-known composers because of our videos.
• For many composers/performers, it is a rite of passage to be featured on our channels.
As educators ourselves, we’re rather proud to make these claims.
8) How are publishers/CD labels treating your efforts?
• We typically try to upload unpublished works, but if we’re interested in uploading a published work, we ask permission from all appropriate parties, and/or acknowledge third party consent. We are happy to have obtained limited upload permissions from a few major publishers (Schott, Faber Music, Gérard Billaudot, etc.), and we plan to strike a few more deals in the near future. In other words, we are currently aboveboard with publishers and record companies, so we have no copyright concerns.
On that note, I am regularly surprised by how polarized the responses are by the score publishers. Some say ‘no’ EMPHATICALLY, regardless of how enthusiastic the composer is about having his/her work featured on our channels. Others recognize the shift in copyright culture, and are completely on board. Record labels are consistently supportive. We typically don’t post entire albums, so in a way it serves as an advertising tool, and indeed, we always include purchase links in the info section when we can.
9) Tell us a little about the positive feedback you get….
• We regularly receive thank you comments on our videos. Some people go the extra step and share little anecdotes. For example, one viewer noted that he had (library) access to only a few scores by Schoenberg and Webern during his college years, but now thanks to us, there’s a huge arsenal online.
• I also recently received a comment in person that made me feel particularly good. One of the undergraduate composers at Harvard said he honestly thinks he wouldn’t be here studying music if not for Score Follower and Incipitsify. Needless to say, comments like these are a huge part of what motivates us.
10) A lot of the scores on your channel fall into the realm of what sometimes is called “new complexity” – are there also very simple scores that you like?
• Yes, I love many of the “simpler” scores featured on our channels. I actually do not consider the complexity of a score as an indicator for quality at all. Complexity (or tablature, or graphic scores, etc.) certainly have a visual wow-factor that might be intriguing to a large percentage of our audience, and I do think that many people watch our videos to learn new notational languages, and to simply look at beautiful scores. It’s possible that these scores are a bit more overrepresented than I would prefer, but I believe this is a major part of what inspires people these days.
11) Do you sometimes feel that the look of a score is overrated compared to the actual experience of having it performed? Is overtly (and needlessly) complex notation an issue for you?
• For the past couple of years, I’ve been collaborating with Belgian guitarist, Nico Couck . When I first met him, I heard him practicing Simon Steen Andersen’s In-side-out-side-in. I was quite impressed by his playing, but it wasn’t until he turned on the metronome that my jaw dropped.
I’m not saying that the piece works better with a metronome, and I’m also not saying that the piece is particularly complex, but what I thought was casual noodling on the guitar at points in the piece was in fact precisely choreographed movements, and Nico was executing them with amazing accuracy against the click. My point is that the metronome provided a temporal reference to which I could gauge his actions, and as a result, I appreciated the piece—and his performance of it—so much more. From then on forward, I can more or less detect the desired experience of works by composers like Simon Steen-Andersen, even if certain aspects of it are not immediately present on the surface. I know how he thinks, and therefore I think differently when I listen, regardless of whether or not a metronome is present.
By making score follower videos, I am doing something equivalent to turning on the metronome; I’m providing a kind of context for these sounds. I think my videos prove that complexity is necessary in cases that corresponding affects are desired. If you listen to a piece by, say, Aaron Cassidy, and the aural surface doesn’t seem to exhibit some degree of multidimensionality that one might expect with his notation, either A) the performer is not interpreting the piece well, and/or B) your ears are not attuned to the affects that may result from his notational language. People who watch my videos of his works, I hope, learn to associate the notation with what perhaps might be rather subtle surface details, and later attune their ears to those aspects of the music that make his works specific to his kind of score. So, to answer your question, the look of the score is not overrated; however, that doesn’t mean that there are not composers out there who spend way too much time/effort making sure the score is beautiful with disregard to the aural result.
12) Tell us a little about weird or very unusual scores that you have converted. What is your personal favorite video?
• I think the most unusual score is Richard Barrett’s Politeia from Construction because there are multiple ensembles reading off of different incompatible scores—incompatible in the sense that the page turns do not line up.
The two runner-ups are Andrew Greenwald’s A Thing is a Hole in a Thing it is Not and Henrique Vaz’s Black MIDI
• Of course, it is nearly impossible to choose just one favorite video. I think Chaya Czernowin’s piece, Sahaf, is probably the one that I go back and listen to most regularly.
• There’s also this breathtaking delicate piece by Evan Johnson:
13) Which other videos would you recommend to a newcomer to your channels? (I could integrate the links in the article, perhaps 2 or 3)
• Marcos Balter Wicker Park
Probably the best entry piece—so rich and colorful considering it’s written for a monophonic instrument.
• Carola Bauckholt Zugvögel
So entertaining, and also kind of hilarious.
• Eric Wubbels Katachi (part 1)
Extremely attractive piece. Exciting use of rhythm and repetition, and quite surprising—especially part 2.