This week we look at musical innovation and hear from Kate Nordstrum, the Executive Producer of Special Projects for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Through her desire to offer a wider stage for experimental musical expression, she and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have created a program called Liquid Music.
Creating Liquid Music
Liquid Music was born when the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) and I were interested in creating more platforms for musical discovery than were previously offered through orchestral programming alone. We believed that encouraging a culture of passionate exploration in music was important for artists, audiences and the orchestra itself. More and more, musicians exist “between worlds” – they play in orchestras and nurture independent bands. We wanted to provide space at the SPCO for different kinds of work to be featured side by side.
Liquid Music serves as a conduit through which artists can do the types of projects that might have seemed impossible without our focused and nuanced support. New work is and will always be inherently ‘risky,’ but along with this risk comes the sincerity and humanness that we all find so exhilarating and inspiring.
It is deeply gratifying to see Liquid Music projects happening elsewhere and for us to partner with organizations across the country who want to enter into the conversation surrounding replication and expansion. It becomes a much richer series as we engage with others whose missions intersect with our own but bring different perspectives and strengths to bear. Liquid Music means something different for an orchestra, museum, academic institution, film festival, chamber music series, etc.
Good art should not happen in a vacuum. That’s been a felony of orchestras in particular for way too long (though to be fair, we all fall prey to siloed thinking). When we look outside ourselves for inspiration, give credit to other innovators, engage in cultural dialogue, know what is happening outside our own art form and industry, our relevance is elevated. For example, the graphic designer I work with to create Liquid Music’s visual identity each season plays a huge role in shaping the way the public sees and feels about what we are doing, without words. Partnerships matter and usually add up to much more than we can imagine in the beginning.
Liquid Music’s most important institutional partners are the Walker Art Center, American Composers Forum, Givens Foundation for African American Literature, Contemporary Art Center Cincinnati, MASS MoCA, New Amsterdam Records/New Amsterdam Presents, Guthrie Theater, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Film Society of Minneapolis Saint Paul, Bedroom Community, McNally Smith College of Music, American Swedish Institute, MPR Live Events… and there are new possibilities in the works that are thrilling to me. Stay tuned!
Liquid Music builds projects that are impressive for their heart-forwardness and emotional resonance even while challenging artists and audiences to think bigger and explore musical realms they don’t know. Virtuosity and raw talent are a very nice side note. Heart first.