Capstone Records: Working in Partnership
Contemporary Classical Composers
Diane Sward Rapaport
Like many owners
of niche oriented independent record companies, Richard Brooks founded
Capstone Records to help keep his favorite genre of music alive.
so many good contemporary classical composers and limited exposure
opportunities. Many of my peers grew up thinking that if we just wrote
the great American symphony, people would knock down our doors. We
went to school to be composers and artists. We weren't taught business.
Or promotion. Or how to be successful without holding down a teaching
job. Today, that's changing. Composers are thinking creatively about
give me some examples?
McLean Mix" comes right to mind. Their performances feature
an interactive, three dimensional music and art media installation.
Visitors are invited to participate by improvising sounds on acoustic
instruments, microphones and electronic keyboards. "Rainforest"
recreates the sights and sounds of a rain forest to create a continuous
music/media macrocomposition. The audience walks through the event
and participates by producing sounds on acoustic instruments, microphones
and electronic keyboards that have been preprogrammed to evoke appropriate
sounds. What a great idea!
Bruce Mahin, mixes music with sound and animation on his enhanced
CD "Time Chants." Any CD player will play it, but if you
have the right computer, you can access fabulous, animated graphics.
The provocative images in "Time Chants I" evoke the confusion
and tension of the L.A. riots of 1992. By incorporating some of the
feelings and sounds of rock 'n' roll, Mahin shows he isn't afraid
of enlarging his palette across traditional boundaries. As a result,
he's attracting a younger generation to his concerts.
think that "contemporary classical" means the atonal, serial
compositions of Shoenberg's disciples. Some of my friends get downright
hostile when they hear that music. Is this changing?
a lot of composers who were influenced by jazz, rock and world music
are using tonal based systems and writing music that is much more
accessible to contemporary audiences. Their music is more in tune
with what lovers of classical music are comfortable with and like.
A very good sign that the music is becoming much more accessible and
desirable is the signing of three contemporary composers to major
record label deals: Richard Danielpour, Aaron Kermis, who won the
1998 Pulitzer, and Henrik Gorecki from Poland, who had a bestseller
with his Second Symphony. All had put out records on smaller labels
before being signed.
to think that contemporary classical is a catch-all phrase that encompasses
a lot of interesting styles.
are hard to categorize. Frank Zappa is a good example. The vast majority
of his pop fans have no idea that he was also a very serious composer
who wrote chamber music and orchestral works. He was a great admirer
of Edgard Varese, a major composer of the mid-century and a pioneer
in electronic music, and those influences made him one of the most
creative and interesting pop AND classical composers. It is hard to
draw the distinctions because so many contemporary classical composers
are interested in a broad range of creativity and have a whole new
set of electronic and multi-media tools at their disposal. It is a
very exciting time for new composers in all genres.
you found Capstone?
my composer/ recording engineer friend Reynold
Weidenaar-an important multimedia pioneer-and I talked ourselves
into doing an album of our own music. We spent an afternoon trying
to think up catchy titles. We called the album "Music Visions"
and the record label Capstone. We thought it was a one shot thing.
The next year,
we gave a presentation about how to produce your own record at a composer's
conference. Afterward, a curious thing happened. Several composers
approached me and said 'It's okay doing it ourselves, but how about
doing it on your label?' We did a second, then a third. The label
began to grow by word of mouth. And now we have nearly 60 titles and
are turning out two to three records a month. I have a sense of mission
to get some very wonderful music out to where audiences can find it.
it cost a fortune to make a record with a full orchestra? How do you
keep recording costs down?
orchestras in Eastern Europe, we can contain costs tremendously. For
example, the annual International Music Days festival in Constanta,
Romania, is dominated by American composers. In addition to performing
their pieces publicly, they schedule recording sessions with the Constanta
Symphony orchestra and do the rest of it back here. It would cost
three to four times as much to do it here. The festivals and recordings
have helped bring the Constanta Symphony prestige and the orchestra
has twice toured the United States under the auspices of Columbia
Artists Management. The festival is a collaboration of the International
New Music Consortium, New York University, the Constanta Symphony,
Orfeus Choir, Hyperion University, Thalassa Sound, the Inspectoratul
de Cultura and the American New Music Consortium.
composers like about Capstone Records?
of it as a compatible alliance. Our artists know that we are making
our selections solely on the quality of the work. They know we make
a conscious effort to include a broad spectrum of styles and approaches
without assuming any aesthetic bias. The composers produce the music
the way they want and get to keep inventory to sell at performances
or give away to people who are likely to hire them or review their
performances. Our distributor, Albany Music, gets our records into
stores all over the country, and we are beginning to work with several
European distributors. We send promotional mailings to our list of
classical radio stations and reviewers. We put ads in the Calendar
of New Music, Fanfare Magazine and others.
you like about QCA?
working with them for 20 years and their product is always excellent.
I've never met them face to face yet they are like friends. They extend
tremendous courtesies. I just know anything I send will be done great.
founder of Capstone Records, has composed over fifty works in all
media, including operas, orchestra, chamber and choral music. His
music has been widely performed in the United States and Europe.
Since 1975, he
has taught at Nassau Community College, where he has been Music Department
Chair since 1983. From 1977-1982, he served as Chair of the Executive
Committee of the Society of Composers. Since 1981, he served on the
Board of Governors of the American Composers Alliance, was elected
President in 1993, and was reelected in 1996. Among his awards is
a Composer Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, several
Meet the Composer grants, an American Music Center Grant and a compositional
grant from the State University of New York Research Foundation. He
has received commissions from the Tri Cities Opera (Binghamton), the
New York State Music Teachers Association, the Kent Philharmonia Orchestra
of Grand Rapids and several individual performers.