US composer wins court battle of work that orchestra stopped playing

In April 2004, at then-Avery Fisher Hall, the conductor took a bow in the middle of a long, new work by Nathan Currier and led the soloists off stage after a union representative signalled that the orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, were going into overtime.

The incident provoked litigation from the composer, in which he is now claiming victory. A settlement has been reached giving Currier the rights to a recording of his Gaian Variations.

 

‘I suspect many in my field are bemused as to why I bothered pursuing this so long,’ says Currier. ‘It certainly isn’t from litigiousness, vanity, anger or the like: it’s just what got me to write the piece in the first place, or to put in personal funds when the organizations involved didn’t raise the money, and that is that the material behind the work is beautiful, but also utterly obligatory, if you want your grandchildren to have lives on planet Earth.’

You may read more of his account here.

 

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  • This composer is as long-winded verbally as he apparently is musically. Why would a relatively unknown composer write something which is so long that it potentially puts musicians on overtime? What an ego.

    So this guy may be legallly right, but who the hell wants to play his music? What a rightious bore.

    • sort of like that guy Mahler and his 2-hour long symphonies? Or that Dick Wagner guy and his week-long operas?

      • Oh, come on. 1. Mahler didn’t write anything nearly this long & 2. Wagner was a well-established composer within substantial govt. support (& funding) when he premiered
        his lengthy operas.

        Now on top of everything this guy thinks he is the equal of Mahler & Wagner? Oh, brother. This is becoming an instruction guide in how an unknown composer can alienate his potential audiences as well as any musicians assigned to play his pieces. He can take that to court all he wants and it won’t change. Digging his own grave very quickly here.

    • (a) Boringness is not a barrier to performance. Ask anybody who’s a non-fan of Wagner, or Bruckner, or Mahler, or the Bach Passions, or, or, or… And the man may be a long-winded, self-righteous bore, but among composers that does not make him special.

      (b) It’s weird that the orchestra, realizing the length of the piece, didn’t arrange their program accordingly — e.g. program an intermission, or put a limit on the pre-concert talkety-talk, or take the costs of overtime into consideration, or even make cuts in the piece — and instead just ended it partway through on the grounds of being out of time.

  • I presume the work was rehearsed before the concert and the length noted, so how did it get to the performance without resolving this obvious problem in advance?

    There is no “2-hour long” Mahler symphony and opera companies typically reach agreement regarding hours and pay *before* the performance starts.

  • Good one! It probably isn’t. Courts can rule but I really wonder how this composer is going to actually win anything. Especially since it sounds like he’s destroyed any good will between him, management and especially the musicians.

  • I was tempted to side with the composer until I read the premise of this bloviated work. Would that all lib tropes experience such a demise.

  • It would be great if there was a link to somewhere that could explain this story coherently. How did the performance mishap come about to begin with? Did they forget to rehearse the piece? And then what exactly is the damage suffered by the composer? What was he suing for? What did his contract say? What does the partial recording have to do with the performance mishap? Are they unrelated issues? This is clearly a somewhat complicated story and it would be great to know what’s actually happening.

  • I don’t really understand the basis of the legal action. Surely he can’t sue them for only playing part of his musical composition. Unless he had hired them to play his music, how did he “win”.

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