16 November 2010


I've always been of a mind that prescribing repertoire for competitions, grad school auditions and other such circumstances is short sighted. One's choice of repertoire says a little bit about their technique, but a lot about their musicianship. Committees aren't ignorant of this, but rather keenly aware of it; direct comparison of players' execution of the same set of tasks is to be favored because it enables the imposition of more objective criteria in a way that isn't possible when everyone is playing different music. Personally, I don't think that's a good thing. Any conceit of objectivity in a music competition is a mirage anyway; I'd rather everyone heeded the total musical package, whatever that is to them. I know that if I ever found myself sitting on a committee where I was asked to assimilate someone else's value system, I'd certainly want to know why I was invited in the first place.

When it comes to instruments like the tuba, I wonder if committees aren't more apt to prescribe repertoire simply because there is so little of it to choose from. A tubist-composer or -arranger who creates even a merely serviceable new piece for themselves to play has stacked the deck substantially in their own favor (you'll gather from that statement that I personally consider most all of the usual suspects to be less than serviceable, if not as showcases, then as music, which is more important). On the other hand, one wonders if mediocre music is ever prescribed precisely in order to see who can make the best of it. If personalization is the goal, though, better to let everyone choose (or even create) their own music in the first place.

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