NORMAN — The Norman Philharmonic opened its third season with a daring concert featuring the work of visiting composer John Mackey. The 39-year-old composer’s works have been performed everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to Carnegie Hall. On Sunday his atypical harmonies and pulsing rhythms filled the Nancy O’Brian Performing Arts Center.
“I think it’s a symbol of what’s happening in America. I mean, to be a contemporary composer a few decades ago would be the kiss of death. You would never be heard,” OU music professor William Wakefield said.
Things are changing. Mackey and composers like him are finding more commissions and eager audiences and groups like the Norman Philharmonic are bringing adventurous contemporary American music to the masses.
Then, there’s social media. Mackey uses it to engage his fans and get feedback, sometimes even advice.
“To me it’s fun. I enjoy putting stuff online and I think it really helps the audience,” Mackey said. “I can talk about a piece as I’m writing it and if I have a question ... ‘Can the French horn play with this kind of mute in this register? Would that sound good?’ And I can put that question on Facebook and I’ll get 150 comments from all these people. They’re usually students and then they feel vested in the creation of the work that I’m writing. They’re connected, So when that piece is done, they want to hear it. They want to look at the score,” he said.
“It’s a big thing. I had a piece I’d been working on for a month and I started putting things on facebook a couple of weeks ago. I put a midi mock-up on Soundcloud and 1,800 people listened to it the first day. It’s a really good way to get help and also generate interest in the piece.”