JENNIFER HIGDON A Gentle Notion Is it more meaningful to make someone a birthday gift, or to buy one? Sure, in an age of Amazon wish lists and easy-as-pie online shopping, it may be simpler than ever before to insure you’re purchasing the perfect gift for the special people in your life. Some of the best gifts, though, are handmade, like a child’s haphazardly constructed macaroni portrait, freshly baked cookies, or a short work for clarinet and piano.
SAMUEL BARBER Summer Music, Op. 31 A GoFundMe page for a budding young artist wanting to embark on their first tour. A Kickstarter for a small filmmaker with an idea for Hollywood’s next big hit. A group of art lovers coming together to fund a public installation. Crowdfunding in arts and entertainment is not a novel concept now. However, when American composer Samuel Barber essentially crowdfunded Summer Music in 1956 through the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, such an idea was not so ubiquitous and gained national attention as one of the first pieces of music to be commissioned by the public. Instead of accepting a fee upfront, Barber opted for a “pay what you can” model, collecting audience donations (mostly falling between $1 to $5), with the Chamber Music Society acting as a guarantor for $2,000. The work was premiered on March 20, 1956 by the front-desk players of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and was immediately well received by the audience一partially due to the fact that the audience members had a personal stake in the project. In fact, subscribers of the Chamber Music Society were so invested in the process of the composition that during the few years that the work was being composed, they persistently inquired: “When will our composition be played?” Summer Music’s success was evident in the reaction of the local audience, who were impressed by the “mood of pastoral serenity” and the “highly skilled performance” according to Josef Mossman, a Detroit music critic who was present at the premiere.