Are Atonal Musicians Even Allowed To Have A Sense Of Humor?

A country singer walks into a recording studio and reminisces in song about his late father who was a composer of atonal music. No, it’s not the setup line to the latest joke at the expense of atonal composers, it’s a real thing.

While there’s no shortage of tongue-in-cheek fun, this is a real song, Copyright 2019 Merle Songs (ASCAP), written by Merle Hazard. Right out of the gate, the lyrics are a grabber:

My dad was a composer. Modern was his style.
His music always made you think. It never made you smile.

If nothing else, don’t miss Alison Brown’s atonal banjo solo set over bluegrass key changes. #AwardWorthy

I dare you not to hum this tune later in the day.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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