Tuesday, October 9, 2007


It goes without saying that every composer wants name recognition. So there, I said it anyway, and I'll say it again. Every composer wants name recognition. It's good for your career. In fact, without at least some name recognition, you don't actually have a career. Not as a composer anyway.

Like some composers, some animals have name recognition too. But it's a little different. The idea for composers is to have other people recognize their names.

"Oh, John Adams. Yes, I've heard of him. He's the only composer in Alaska."

"No, that's the other John Adams. John Luther Adams. He lives in Alaska. I was referring to the real John Adams."

Both composers have a certain amount of name recognition, but one of them has a whole lot more than the other. The same could be said for John Lennon. No, not the first dead Beatle. John Anthony Lennon, new music composer.

The idea with animals is that they recognize their own names. Your cat Fluffums has never heard of either John Adams. But Fluffums recognizes his own name when you talk to him. Maybe not when someone else does, but any dog or cat owner (I don't know about snakes or goldfish) will assure you that their pet recognizes its name. But if you have more than one dog or cat, you also know that you speak to each one a little differently. It's not just their name they recognize, but how you say it. This is kind of a musical thing. The pitch and inflection and other nuances are part of what the animals recognize. In fact, maybe that's all they really do recognize. I don't know for sure.

Sometimes animals get named after composers. I don't know why that is; I don't think names of famous composers (i.e. those with a lot of name recognition) make good names for pets. But there is a movie about a dog named Beethoven. And I recently met a dog named Sibelius. Not good pet names. But if pets can have famous composer names, why shouldn't famous composers have "pet names"?

So, let's play a game shall we? We'll call it "Name the Composer".

Here are the names of six contemporary American composers with a significant quantity of name recognition (for contemporary composers, that is; they're not exactly household words):

Philip Glass

Joan Tower

Aaron Jay Kernis

Augusta Read Thomas

John Harbison

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

And here are six popular names for pets :







All you have to do to play is match each pet name to a composer. Use each name only once. Once you've matched up the names, say each one out loud, and find that special musical nuance, that cute voice, that particular inflection that goes with each name, just as if each composer were one of your pets.

That's all there is to it. Now, whenever you hear that composer's name, think of them as you would your pet, and say their "secret name", out loud, or to yourself.

Of course these names are just suggestions to get you started. You can make your own lists, and make as many composer/pet name combinations as you like.

If this idea catches on, maybe we can start up some composer rescue programs and composer shelters. Jack Vees has suggested a composers petting zoo. I like that idea.

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