Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Business, art, and opportunity for a small press

You would think that a publisher's first goal has to be selling enough to cover costs and remain in business. And in truth, as the owner of a fledgling press, my fingernails don't grow as fast as I can bite them down when I let a sensible anxiety over finances seize me.

But the fact is that I founded my press to celebrate and to promote artists I admire and believe in because they are excellent practitioners of their crafts and because they are substantial thinkers with rich ideas and experience to offer. Their work and thought enhance our own lives.

Composer Morgan Powell is a brilliant, genuinely unprecedented artist who has quietly created a tremendous body of scored and improvised compositions(the latter as a member of the Tone Road Ramblers sextet). Powell has never sought reputation, his musical process being so much a part of thoughtful living that to step away into promotion is to depart into an alien world inimical to the twin improvisatory processes of life and music.

In a world awash with recorded music, composers we haven't heard of tend to merge into a pounding headache of background noise. We feel annoyed and imposed upon even by free handouts of new CDs by unfamiliar artists, and especially when we’re asked to buy something cold. Why should we?

Music composition is a profession; for many, it’s a competition. For composer and improviser Powell, it’s art, launched by observation toward the end of new understanding—and new beginnings. There’s no looking back: Life is improvised from minute to minute moving forward, and this is how Powell composes. His third eye music creates sounds and form not from rules or traditions of music, but from the freedom of art.

So if listening to Powell's extraordinary, unfamiliar music sounds like a recommendation to eat your vegetables—it's good for you!—freedom has to have the same lack of appeal. Who knows what will happen when there are no rules that both bind but protect you? When there is nothing to tap your foot to, telling you that you are hearing "correctly?" What if the music is written so that you can listen with your own ears and mind open, taking what comes and interpreting it as you will, without needing an expert to tell you what you hear? With Powell's music, every listener is an expert because for every listener it is unprecedented—completely new. Sit back and let it float or drown you; lean in and delight in the brilliance and sweetness of the sound world Powell composes, offers to you, or ambushes you with.
Powell’s music is powerful, beautiful, efficient, and unprecedented in the challenges for the many virtuosos who commission it and play it. In Morgan Powell you will discover a composer you wish you’d discovered years ago because his music reminds you why humans make art in the first place.

Learn more about Powell; purchase the new CD, Morgan Powell On and Off the Score, and the monograph "Sounding Our Depths: The Music of Morgan Powell" at Upper Hand Press

This music is thought and image at least as much as sound—and such sounds you'll hear in your dreams, where you can't analyze them. It's art, here to make us explore and to go deeper.

It is a great privilege for Upper Hand Press to be the corner of the world where people can come to find or to discover this extraordinary artist. In deciding to support the work of a great composer who is off the charts, we are doing important work that would be neglected to the real detriment of our musical and intellectual culture. 

Is this the way for a small press to do business? And how! If we aren't for the rarities, who will be? What an opportunity for my press to promote Morgan Powell——and that is the bottom line.

Ann Starr, Publisher
November 9, 2015