30 January 2011

Chamber Music Ensemble Finance: Incorporating as a Non-Profit

United States Artists

W   e have thought about incorporating and/or becoming a not-for-profit but just haven’t made the time to speak with someone about the technicalities of it all, while adding up the pros and cons... If we had our way, practicing, playing, teaching, and performing would be all that filled our days! Each of us in the quartet feels anxious about how we can make a ‘go’ of it, financially. This adds to the stress in our lives. And stress no doubt affects the practicing, playing, teaching, and performing. So I’m not really sure why we haven’t yet made the time to speak to someone about creating a nonprofit org to help the quartet’s finances...”
  — Anonymous, first violin, leading string quartet, via email.
T he weeks my wife and I spent in England last November revealed to us just how prevalent forming non-profit ‘friends’ or ‘affinity’ organizations has become, for soloists and small chamber ensembles and composers, in the wake of recent years’ public-sector budget cuts and lower concert ticket sales during the recession. Standing chamber orchestras and choirs and annual music festivals and presenters and the like have typically had non-profit friends orgs for fund-raising and financial support, but what we saw in England, in concert after concert, was that individual artists and trios and quartets, etc., now had formed them as well.

I n the U.S., finances for people in the arts are at least as tenuous as elsewhere, but there has not yet, so far as I can tell, been such a move en masse to incorporate as a nonprofit organization and to use this org as a vehicle for increasing and stabilizing a group’s finances as is being so frequently done by chamber performers and composers in the U.K.

B ut the trend in the U.S. has begun. The variety of purposes and budgets is quite large. For example, composer friend of mine has recently used her 501(c)(3) to successfully raise the funds necessary for having a new work performed and recorded in Europe. A quartet I know has recently had their 501(c)(3) run a campaign to raise the money needed to cover expenses for an Asian performance tour. Campaigns like these entail extra effort for the artists above and beyond their existing commitments—‘Friends Association’ gatherings, green-room and aprés-performance meet-and-greet activities, and so on. But the process can be far more successful financially—and far faster—than trying to raise money through grant applications, residencies, adding yet more performances to already-packed schedules, and so on.

T his CMT blog post gathers together some resources/links that may be of interest to you if you are considering incorporating as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) org. Here is a list of the basic steps:
  • Determine what type of nonprofit organization you are. Some links below provide information needed to establish a new non-profit.
  • Write your mission statement. The mission statement is a concise expression that covers in one or two sentences who the organization is, what it does, your purpose, services and values.
  • Form your Board of Directors. Each state has regulations that set the minimum size of a Board (typically, three) but the best number of people for you should be determined by the needs of your organization. Based on what your organization would like to accomplish, you should decide what skills you need the people on your Board to have. You want qualified individuals who are passionate about your mission, who are willing to give of their talents and time and money, and who will be able to effectively attract other people to do the same.
  • File your Articles of Incorporation. These are written statements of creation of an organization files with the appropriate state agency. They protect both you and your Board members from legal liabilities that may be incurred by your organization, making your corporation the holder of debts and liabilities, not yourself or other individuals and officers who work for your organization. In the U.S., the specific requirements governing how to incorporate are determined by each state. You can obtain the information you need to proceed with this step from your state Attorney General’s office or your Secretary of State’s office. I highly recommend consulting with an attorney who is experienced in the area of nonprofit law so that you do not make one of the many mistakes that people make when they try to incorporate by themselves. In most cases, this should cost less than $1,000 to do, money well-spent.
  • Draft your Bylaws. Bylaws are the written rules that say how the organization operates. Although bylaws are not required to file for 501(c)(3) status, they will help you in governing your nonprofit org. Bylaws should be drafted with the help of an attorney and approved by your Board early in your organization’s development.
  • Prepare a written budget document for your non-profit org for the current year, in an Excel or OpenOffice or GoogleDocs spreadsheet. A budget is the dollars in anticipated income and expenses, for your operating plan--the cashflows to achieve the objectives of your organization. Your new org may create a budget by projecting potential income and expenses: figure out how much money you have to raise and spend to accomplish what you intend to do during the current year.
  • Establish a record-keeping system for your non-profit org, separate from the record-keeping for your group or for each of you as individuals. Legally, you must save all Board documents including your meetings’ minutes, your financial statements, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, financial reports, and other records. You should contact your appropriate state agency for more information on what records you are required to keep in your files and for how many years you are required to retain them.
  • Establish an accounting system for your nonprofit group. QuickBooks®, Quicken®, or other software can help.
  • Apply for your federal Employer Identification Number. Regardless of whether or not you have employees, nonprofits are required to obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), also referred to as the federal ID number. Available from the IRS, this number is used to identify the organization when tax documents are filed. You use Form SS-4 when applying for your EIN.
  • File for 501(c)(3) status for your org. To apply for recognition of tax-exempt, public charity status, obtain Form 1023 and Publication 557 (links below) from the local IRS. The filing fee depends upon the size of the organization’s budget. I strongly recommend getting the assistance of a certified public accountant (CPA) to help you prepare your Form 1023 filing.
  • File for state and local tax-exempt status for your org. Contact your state Department of Revenue, your county or municipal Department of Revenue, local Departments of Revenue, and county or municipal clerk’s offices for information on how to do this in your jurisdictions. Your lawyer or your CPA can help you with this.
  • Fulfill the applicable ‘charitable solicitation law’ requirements. Your organization’s plans include fundraising, so be aware that many states and a few counties and cities regulate organizations that solicit funds within their borders. Usually compliance involves getting a permit or license and then filing an annual report and financial statement. Contact your state Attorney General’s office, your state Department of Commerce, your state and local Departments of Revenue and your county or municipal clerk’s offices to get more information. Save copies of the letters you sent to these offices in your org’s files, plus copies of whatever correspondence you receive back from those offices.
  • Apply for a nonprofit mailing permit. Second- and third-class rates are substantially less when nonprofits mail to a large number of addresses. For more information on eligibility, download a copy of U.S. Postal Service Publication 417, ‘Nonprofit Standard Mail Eligibility’ (link below). In order to qualify for nonprofit rates, your mailings must be soliciting monetary donations and not promoting or otherwise facilitating the sale of any goods (e.g., CDs) or services.

29 January 2011

Sociotropic Provenance of Liszt’s Mid-Career Piano Works

Reverse osmosis

The santa indifferenza of Liszt is the ‘holy indifference’ advocated by St. François de Sales and other spiritual writers in the Catholic mystical tradition. And this in turn is obviously identical with the non-attachment advocated in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions... Needless to say, ‘holy indifference’ is not at all the same thing as plain, unholy indifference, and is fully compatible with intense concern for goodness, beauty, and Truth.”
  —  Aldous Huxley, letter, 26-OCT-1961.
Eezek a darabok példái annak, hogy a romantika korszakában hogyan tudott megszólalni egy-egy szonett, bármi is, észre a következmények. A romantikus Liszt érzékenységének köszönhetően a versek hangulata, mély mondanivalója jut el a mentálisan zavart befogadóhoz, okoz a további kárt.”
A ttended an excellent concert tonight, given by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in the Harriman-Jewell Series.
  • Liszt—Consolations, S. 172
  • Liszt—Années de pèlerinage, troisième année, ‘Les jeux d’eaux’, S. 163
  • Liszt—Venezia e Napoli, ‘Tarantella’, S. 162
  • Liszt—Ballade No. 2 in B minor, S. 171
  • Liszt—Deux légendes, S. 175
  • Liszt—Isolde’s Liebestod, S. 447
  • Liszt—Polish Songs (after Chopin), ‘Meine Freuden’ S. 480
A esthetic experience is a kind of access to psychic reality, both our own reality and the reality of others—that much is certain from hearing these pieces. Aesthetic experience and creativity not only aid our recovery from ‘bad psychological states’, they are also valuable for understanding and distinguishing internal reality and external reality. I listened to Thibaudet’s sensitive and highly-animated performances of these Liszt pieces, and as I did so I wondered more and more about the circumstances of how they were composed. Liszt’s major keys (all except S. 171) are like they have “something to prove,” no, more like there is someone whose mood they are emphatically meaning to elevate or tranquilize, like they were conceived with a particular patient and a therapeutic purpose in mind?

N ote: in recent days I’ve been working on health services research involving mental health and measures of quality and access to care for mental and behavioral conditions. This recent focus of my attention no doubt ‘primed’ me to respond to this concert in the ways that I did.

I n that regard, the importance of including ‘patient-intended’ criticisms and ‘partner-perceived’ criticisms and the parallel importance of examining gender differences in models of exchanges of criticisms between partners and depression of one or both partners—these are discussed in an excellent paper published last summer by Kristina Peterson and David Smith (link below) at the University of Notre Dame. Of course, Peterson’s and Smith’s study focused on members of the general population, not couples who are elite artists/composers/writers/celebrities.

Liszt’s illness was prefigured by depression, which was, in part situational... [He] began to drink cognac heavily and was warned to decrease his intake by his physicians. He also smoked a lot of [George Sand’s?] Havana cigars.”
  —  John O’Shea, 1995.
S o, gee, these pieces were written roughly in the aftermath of Liszt’s relationship with Marie d’Agoult and the recurring encounters occasioned by family events involving their children (Cosima; and until their deaths in 1859 and 1862, respectively, Daniel and Blandine) and also through Chopin—more or less between 1841-1867, from when Liszt was about 30 to 55 years old.

T his must’ve been stressful and awkward… Sociotropic process, the psychic equivalent of a semi-permeable membrane, which selectively and through passive transportation or active transportation allows some emotional ‘molecules’ to pass through the membrane but prevents others from passing. The emotional brew contained several types of dissolved ‘solute’ molecules, in a family chamber—multiple compartments now separated by thin semi-permeable membranes with pores, and sealed... (Seated in Row #2, in close proximity to the piano and Thibaudet in-charge, it is natural that one’s imagination will run wild.)

S ome small emotions crossed Liszt’s semi-permeable membrane, like small molecules cross dialysis tubing, in their attempt to reach equilibrium. Bigger emotions, bigger molecules, not so much...

Y ears of Pilgrimage’... this conceit implies a wanderer in search of truth, and, one can only imagine that the title is, in good measure, Liszt’s autobiographical reverse-osmotic self-mythologizing.

Because Marie broke with both Liszt and George Sand, she has been given a ‘bad press’ in biographies of both of those celebrities... What was the private life of a woman like this? A woman who left her great love (Liszt) after five years and returned to Paris, not to her husband who would have taken her back, nor to her family, but to an independent life... One of the first things one must ask about any independent woman in the 19th Century is: Where did the money come from; how did she support herself? ... Posterity has reproached Marie d’Agoult for not having loved Liszt’s art sufficiently to sacrifice herself to it.”
  —  Phyllis Stock-Morton.
O ne might question whether Liszt was really as cultured as Marie presented him in her memoirs... he quoted famous authors indiscriminately—St. Augustine, Petrarch, Montaigne, Chateaubriand, Hugo, the Bible. Although he seemed avid to read and represent himself as a reader, it is not clear that he had digested much or developed any critical abilities. Even in the springtime of their romance, Marie, always a precise thinker, criticized not only some [trashy, sophomoric] books he liked [Bande Dessinée comic strips] but also the [purple] language of his letters.”
  —  Phyllis Stock-Morton, p. 24.
W hether or not the Charismatic Hungarian was literally searching for Truth truth, he was surely searching for audiences receptive to his preferred, dramatic, truthy historiography—part of which we heard in these emphatic works that Jean-Yves performed. Years later, Marie, too, in her writings prevaricated, denied, revised, glossed, hid…

Walker book, p. xi
W hat were Liszt’s sources of support, emotionally? How lonely was it, “at the top”? How much of a mutual “nightmare” had Franz and Marie been to each other, I wonder?

M arie d’Agoult’s nightmares, especially in Italy, in Venezia e Napoli, were unrelenting. Not much is known of these—what the subjects or imagery in them were, and so on. There is only the evidence of a few letters, and even less is objectively known about the quality of Franz’s sleeping. Not much detail is known about Marie’s suicide attempts; their frequency, their seriousness, her moods and ideation in between them...

H oly extra-marital stress-diatheses! What, if any, mental health services did Liszt avail himself of during the years of these compositions? Was Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein any help at all to Liszt in the years subsequent to Liszt’s break-up with Marie, or was Carolyne instead mostly a hazard, a hindrance? Was in fact Liszt’s music-making the only ‘therapy’ he received, self-administered? Alan Walker’s books don’t have anything to say about this. But that is what I wondered, more and more, as Jean-Yves’s recital progressed...

A s for Comtesse Marie d’Agoult, what modest amount is known of her emotional condition during those years is gathered together in Phyllis Stock-Morton’s recent book (link below). Well worth your look if you’ve made it this far in reading this blog post...

N either Liszt nor d’Agoult was continuously the more forceful personality, I suppose. Both were likely self-propelled multivalent ‘causes’ and ‘effects’, both Forces of Nature to be reckoned with. There were pressures, one upon the other; interpersonal dynamic equilibria; inescapable sociotropic osmosis...

W e are grateful, of course: very grateful to have these beautiful, vivid pieces today—we who are hardly aware of what pressures and emotional costs were associated with their composition. We are grateful, too, to Jean-Yves Thibaudet for reanimating them in the way he was able to do last night with such insight and consummate skill. Through the music, we might learn something about ourselves, even if we shall never be certain of the truths between Franz Liszt and Marie d’Agoult.

J ean-Yves was born in 1961 in Lyon to a German-born mother and French father, both amateur musicians. In addition to diplomatic duties, Jean-Yves’s father taught history and geography at the University of Lyon and was a good amateur violinist. His mother, an accomplished pianist, taught German language and literature at the University.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Phyllis Stock-Morton book

23 January 2011

Parker Quartet: Microludes, Cloud Computing, and Imagination-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Parker String Quartet, Microfiction

S ome of the Microludes use simple dramatic devices such as long sustained notes, while others, such as the 10th, represent a terrifying tangle of string techniques. As there are moments of terror, so are there disturbing breaths of tragic lyricism and even a hint of gallows humor as suggested in the ninth. The total effect, however, is tragic desperation even if we cannot clearly define its source.”
  —  Lucy Miller Murray.
In China the short-short is called a ‘Smoke-Long’ story [the time it takes to smoke a cigarette].”
  —  Shouhua Qi.
O  ne-page fiction should hang in the air of the mind like an image made of smoke.”
  —  Jayne Anne Phillips.
T he Parker Quartet’s performance last night in the UMKC Conservatory - Friends of Chamber Music Alliance Series was superb, their cohesiveness and intensity most impressive. The unusual program showcased a sort of vivid storytelling through music, a collectivistic mode of expression at which the Parker excels. You Can’t See Dogs on the Radio, as they say, but you have no doubt that they are there, that the dogs in the story are real live dogs. The Parker Quartet plays with imagination and realism that tops the most realistic video game or interactive fiction.
  • Daniel Chong, violin
  • Karen Kim, violin
  • Jessica Bodner, viola
  • Kee-Hyun Kim, cello
  • Dvořák — Cypresses, B.152 (I know that on my love; Death reigns; Thou only, dear one; Nature lies peaceful)
  • Kurtág — Twelve Microludes, Op. 13, ‘Hommage a András Mihály’
  • Hindemith — Quartet No. 3, Op. 22 (Fugato; Schenlle achtel; Ruhige viertel; Mässig schnelle; Rondo)
  • Mendelssohn — Quartet in E Minor, Op.44, No. 2 (Allegro assai appassionato; Scherzo; Andante; Presto agitato)
K urtág’s ‘12 Mikrolúdium Vonósné-Gyesre’ Op. 13 were composed in 1977–1978, commissioned by the Witten Festival, and were given their world premiere in Witten on 21-APR-1978 by the Éder Quartet. Each microlude is a “micro fiction”, phenomenally brief, the longest of them being 130 seconds and the shortest a mere 17 seconds. The emotional impact of each nanostory both is tremendous, and the impact of the concatenation of them even more so.

I n her pre-performance remarks, violinist Karen Kim encouraged the audience to consider these vignettes as similar to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, each volume containing 24 preludes and fugues, chromatically organized in all the major and minor keys. Kurtág’s Twelve Microludes feature each key in ascending half-steps beginning with C.

P ieces so short as these carry tremendous risk. In micro fiction, if you are coercing concision, you run the risk that you will be overpowering or cruel or clichéd, as in Hemingway’s famous six-word story, ‘For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.’ Plot and character development and meaning are eroded if the form is too severely truncated/compressed. The information-carrying capacity of the available bytes is too small; it is like lossy jpegs—hard to be sure of what scenes and meanings are depicted in the bits of blurry evidence.

Parker String Quartet, Invisible Dogs
B ut in the Kurtág we get rich and spontaneous observations of people in as little as 17 seconds; we get both their superficial expressions and their deep inner pathologies. What we experience in Parker Quartet’s performance—what is especially distinctive about it—is the crystal-clear, unambiguous consistency of their quartetly “we,” regardless of individualistic feelings, emotions, or extrinsic thoughts the quartet members may be having. We are, at this moment, all the same, they seem to say: an assemblage of 4 persons, creating one singularity, one reality. “See it? It floats above us, about 1 meter above our heads, in the column of air between our music stands.”

A nd we in the audience eagerly attach ourselves to the intangible forms—the images and fleetingly accepted ideas, which become our “anchors” in this plane of reality. Over the ensuing seconds, those fixations and attachments become the “bars” that cage us and constrain our understanding as well as entrance us. We remain in this plane; we attach ourselves to this plane; we go with the Parkers’ flow.

Parker String Quartet, Invisible Dogs
T he colors and shapes of our emotions within each piece: short-short stories, slices of life. As such, we narrow the time frame and geographical location of each piece. Kurtag’s ’12 Microludes’ is playful—10 minutes of experimentation and exploration of limits. The four voices pass contrariwise—languid sustained notes, accelerating to disorienting tangles. We listeners are not given much of any anchor to hang onto or point-of-reference to maintain our bearings. These invisible dogs are wearing collars and leashes; the Parkers are showing them to us; we pet them. We readers/listeners are empowered to ascribe whatever personalized significance we wish. Interactive fiction!

T he fifth movement is maybe the most fictional one—folk melodies—some in foreground; others backgrounded—people passing each other, all of them are walking their braces of invisible dogs now, bumping into each other, greeting each other. “See it? At the end of this leash? My dog likes to eat nuts, cashews mostly. And that one likes cheese and bacon.”

Parker String Quartet, Invisible Dogs
S peaking of which, the Dvořák ‘Cypresses’ are micro fictions, too, but they are more programmatic or cashew-representational than the Kurtág ‘Microludes’. Kurtág is full of post-structuralist rhetorics ... a ‘metanoia’, a beyond-knowing or about-knowing-and-the-limits-of-knowing, an epistemology of surprise and doubt. Have a look at Jay David Bolter’s chapter in Philip Cohen’s multi-author edited volume (link below) if you are interested in these cashew-ey lit-theory things...

T he music encodes a compiled program—it has a set of initializations; procedural logic and flow-of-control; conditions; contingent outputs—I mean a set of software design patterns and objects and behaviors, whether perceived by us users as tendencies, rules, methods, or procedures. For this reason the formation of an implied code is a normal (and largely unconscious) process for any of us interactors, regardless of our level of technical experience. To possess an “implied code” doesn’t require that we interactors be skilled programmers with an aptitude for conceiving syntax in the compiled language or an aptitude for imagining new data structures.

I n fact, the presence or absence of such imaginings is beside the point. We are... we are cloud-based ‘Imagination-as-a-Service’ (IaaS) agents.

Parker String Quartet, Invisible Dogs
S ometimes our initial notions turn out to be wrong. Our “implied code” contains errors, and we discover that something crucial has changed after we receive what feels like a pop-up error message. Our mental model gets revised.

I nteractive fictions like these embody a sort of command-line-interpreter CLI user-interface, a site of negotiation between the composer, the performers, and us interactors/listeners: our imaginations contain the “objects” and procedural “methods” code for simulation and animation. The composer emits instructions. We cannot help but receive them, but the instructions may or may not be honored by the “implied code” of our listeners’/interactors’ conceptions.

Parker String Quartet, Invisible Dogs
I nteractive fiction is not a painting or photograph containing a command-line prompt or a transcript of a command-line and a new command-line prompt staring at us, nor is it a story describing a series of input command-lines and command-line prompts. It is not Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’ nor Stephenson’s ‘Cryptonomicon’. Nor is it a movie scene replaying a command-line interaction, like ‘The Matrix’.

W e interactors are processes in Time, our implied codes contributing to a ‘coming-into-understanding’ system-services ‘stack’. We interactors progress in learning to interact, paralleled by the progress of the protagonists within each Microlude, protagonists who likewise struggle to understand something within the reality of the story, dogs and all. Implied code mallocs an epiphany—the climax—which gives way to the conclusion: the character understands the world in the moment that we listeners understand the code, and at that moment the work ends, and then dealloc/free() and process-rundown.

S o “implied code” in Kurtag is neither a set of instructions nor a transcript of past interactions. The implied code and objects that are instantiated in the minds of us interactors are a reflection of the source code, byte code, or musical manuscript they stand in relation to, but the result is a rendering into a set of an abstractly conceived network of opportunities, allowances, and prohibitions. At the command-line, whose input mode encourages experimentation and ad hoc going-with-the-flow, these prohibitions such as error messages affect our subsequent implied code.

O ur intertwined aesthetic and technical developments can be cast in narrative theory (Iser’s gaps, and ‘fabula / sjuzet’ distinction), in game-theoretic [micro—] ‘ludology’ (player apprehension of rules, evaluation of strategic advancement), and in filmic representations (subjective POV, time-loops). I add more links for your interest below...

I n short, I was blown away by the Parker Quartet’s captivating imagery and flawless technique. The unusual repertoire in last night’s ‘microfic’ program is the epitome of chamber music ensembles’ effectively appealing to broader audiences. And for beautiful art in such a program to end in our making some discoveries, as fictive energy accumulated around the gaps, the ‘unknowns’ in the mind between the ‘knowns’, seems fitting: total success. The Parkers’ invisible dogs were members of the cloud-based potentialDogs class until, in a sudden beautiful and memorable synaptic arc, the connection was made: closure. IaaS gave us visible realDog instances, while the music lasted.

Parker String Quartet
F ounded in 2002, the Parker Quartet was in 2009 awarded CMA’s prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award which honors rising young string quartets. Currently, the Parker is in its second season as the Quartet-in-Residence with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and in 2010 they were the first-ever Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media.