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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution
In September of 2005, Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar will sign off after some 520 shows. Why is that happening? What is the future of the K&D website? Where are the hosts going?
When the show began as a 13-week summer replacement in 1995, we -- and we are Dennis Báthory-Kitsz and David Gunn, composers both -- had no idea there would be much interest in a 'new music' program locally. And six months later, when we went online, we thought it was a bit of a lark. Who would listen to scratchy audio on line, with 14K modems?
But listen folks did listen, both locally and on line. It was an exciting time, one that merited coverage in such diverse publications as the New York Times and the Village Voice. New ideas came one upon the other, back in the days when doing them didn't cost much. Goddard College covered the server costs. The local community funded the radio station. We kicked in our own time and knowledge, and cash for our interview tours -- also a lark at first, for who would travel to Europe to interview composers and then broadcast the results in Vermont?
Old friends joined us. We had a great time with composers, talking among ourselves as colleagues, and revealing the human side of the hard work that composing is. We did some things right. The website structure, built on Kalvos's background that included a stint as a reference librarian, survived a decade's worth of changes in Internet technology. Damian wrote essays every single week that kept listeners enthralled, and every five shows created a surreal Best of the Bazaar soundmix. Contributions helped us keep the show on line through a series of crises at both Goddard College and at WGDR itself. WGDR almost closed, and Goddard College did close its undergraduate division. We kept going.
We innovated and encouraged community. Our on-line mentoring programs among composers and students in Vermont were an early success. Two years later, a collaboration among David Dramm, K&D, Vuurwerk Internet and others resulted in a 5-hour broadcast/cybercast concert and interview session from the Netherlands (co-hosted there and in Vermont) called Amsterdramm. And three years after that, the Ought-One Festival of NonPop brought composers and performers together in a lovely weekend in Central Vermont. We created a special September 11 Project that broadcast and posted on line the first fruits of artistic response to tragedy. We founded the NonPop International Network, now two dozen broadcast programs worldwide. Throughout, we provided web pages for composers who did not have their own.
We had newslines, scrolling news, and now a Real Simple Syndication news feed. Some failed. The bulletin board and live chat rooms were met with yawns. Neither audio newslines nor text ones had listeners, scrolling news got no clicks. Our support advertisements yielded less than $100 after a year. On the other hand, our prize for ignominy in new music, The Golden Bruce Award, was very popular, along with the annual Listener Response Awards and some of the funny stuff like the The Musical Bullshit Generator and Distort-A-Composer.
And things were changing online. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act made our lives hell as we scrambled to get releases for the music played on previous, archived K&D shows. A venal but wealthy composer tried to shut us down over a period of three years via complaints and lawsuits. Varieties of sound presentation meant that we had to make constant updates and upgrades -- eight versions of Real Audio, the misguided choice of TrueSpeech, and the implementation of MP3s took time and energy.
Soon, our monaural, dialup-oriented shows were being out-teched by Soundclick and now Live365, with new high-fidelity, stereo music programs from Iridium and Kyle Gann's new Postclassic station. As more listeners went to broadband, our shows lost impetus for listening -- but our music releases specified monaural dialup for archiving, so that was it. There was no way to obtain new releases as well as convert over 1,000 hours of audio to high-quality stereo -- no time, and no money to pay for bandwidth charges even if we did make the changes.
And all the composers had websites -- not K&D's pages anymore, but their own. We had outlived our usefulness. And we were getting older.
By early 2003, it was time to make some decisions. As composers, both David and I were seeing more interest in our work. As lifelong composers, that interest was welcome. We are both on the far side of our fifties. Vermont is not kind to the elderly, especially artists. It was time to look elsewhere.
And interest in our work did not translate into income from it -- or rather, into enough income from it. Composition, day jobs and K&D had to be juggled. The task of keeping the website updated, preparing weekly shows, answering mail, updating information, as well as maintaining freshness in ideas and approach, became overwhelming. New websites (there were 50,000 websites when K&D began, but tens of millions now) use slick design and television-style presentation. Who could keep up? Why keep up? K&D already consumed 20 hours or more each week as a dedicated composer site. I was also working on my PhD, albeit late in my career, and David was swamped with new commissions. K&D remained a drain on time and income, even as we loved doing it. Classic cognitive dissonance combined with composer co-dependency.
There was only one answer: End Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar before it began a decline into obsolescence and disaster.
The end is not always The End.
K&D will be around in several guises. Most visible will be the website, which will be 'frozen' as a ten-year archive of composers from 1995-2005. All the interviews will be transcribed for research purposes. Links where possible will be updated (although composer resource and site lists will be ended; we already host the Dan Albertson-Ron Hannah Living Composers Project to replace the old composer site list). But images, graphics, and music will be turned into a time capsule.
We had also hoped to create the Phat Phive Phestival of NonPop for 2005. At this point, twelve months out, it doesn't look good. Money is still not being invested back into the arts, and nonpop is on the bottom of the arts list. That future is not yet written; we shall see.
Our other visibility will be via a book. Yet without a title, this book will look at composers and composition for the five years on each side of the millennium. We hope to include a DVD of music samples to go along with those profiles and quotations and opinions. It will be a wonderful, friendly, and very human book -- all in the familiar Kalvos & Damian style.
We started the show in May 1995, and went on line on September 15. Today is September 5, 2004 -- almost nine years after going on line. On September 15, 2005, K&D will cease broadcasting. For the next year, we will continue to bring interesting music and interviews to you. Next year I'll revisit this space, and say some thank-yous and goodbyes. And after that, David will be continuing to fulfill his mass of commissions, and I will be completing a 15-year-long project of producing my vampire opera.