At the moment, I’m calculating the final grades for my students; by the time you read this, my school year will be officially closed. Even in those years when I held full-time jobs outside academia, I always found that May felt like the end of the year. Concert seasons are concluding, releasing us—like Persephone—from chthonic venues into extended daylight.
As I finish my tallying, I begin to anticipate the bright summer as a time of renewal. I dream of the possibilities latent in the coming year, and I plan for the future. Although I know that I will abandon some ideas, and surprising opportunities will delight and entice me, this planning process helps me to take stock of where I stand artistically and what I would like to accomplish in the near and distant future.
At this time last year, I planned to begin performing on toy piano. These plans came to fruition, and I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to play free improvisations with some amazing musicians. As part of this initial plan, over the coming year I hope to develop new pieces for toy piano and electronics and to perform these pieces.
At this time last year, I did not plan to utilize improvisation in my written compositions. Through performing as an improviser, I began to question how much control is necessary in order to create a satisfying composition. I began to use aleatoric structures in solo compositions. Over the coming year I plan to apply these techniques to larger pieces and to ensemble pieces.
This year my plans include further explorations of the relationships between music and the visual arts. After nearly a decade of procrastination and avoidance, I will begin my summer by creating video accompaniment for a new composition. I also will begin collaborating with a visual artist and choreographer in order to create kinetic sound sculptures for a performance in which dancers will create their own musical accompaniment.
Each year I create grander and grander plans for the brief respite between duties. My hope each year is that by planning to complete the impossible I will drive myself to create more than I would otherwise.
The great snowpocalypse of the mid-Atlantic tightened the screws of the semester, leaving most instructors and students feeling rushed and a bit ornery as the semester sped towards its conclusion. With little time to draw breath, I left many projects incomplete, awaiting resumption and culmination. Now is the time to look forward. Time to take a deep breath and to plunge into the work of the year ahead.
To those of you who are composing and are outside of academia, do you similarly feel the end of the concert season as a time of renewal?
To those of you who are looking towards a new year, I hope that you achieve your goals and I look forward to hearing the results of your work during the seasons ahead.