The 2010 Nashville Symphony EarShot Blog: Don’t Judge from One Piece!

[Ed. Note: This is the fourth installment of Michael Rickleton's blog from the American Composers Orchestra Earshot readings at the Nashville Symphony. His first installment is here, the second installment is here, and the third is here.—FJO]

Friday, April 9, 2010, 1:51am—As predicted, today was yet another extraordinary day. The orchestra touched on a few spots in each piece before reading through and recording. Each work was presented very well by an orchestra comprised of true professionals. I am still in awe of the enormous prep work that went into making this reading successful. Both Maestro Guerrero and the orchestra showed how important “new” music is to Nashville. I felt proud today to have called Nashville my home. This orchestra is a true representative of Nashville culture—welcoming, engaging and committed.

Today’s events concluded with a feedback session with Edgar Meyer, Robert Beaser, Jennifer Higdon, and Maestro Guerrero in which each work was discussed. The criticism of my piece was largely led by myself. I’ve honestly never felt completely satisfied with this piece. There are sections in the work that I find a bit too disconnected and the ending just does not work. In the back of my mind I’ve known this for some time, and although at one point I did go back and revise a few spots in the piece, I typically do not revise works. I would much rather write a new, better piece that utilizes what Ive learned during the time between works. For me, that is one of my primary goals: to continually learn from what I’ve both succeeded with and failed at to produce constantly maturing works that exhibit a more skillful execution of my musical ideas. Only time will tell if that will be the case, however, I think that is important for younger composers to remember. It takes time to create a body of work and I think that is what we are ultimately judged on—a body of work representing who we are as individual composers. For me personally, that is a sentiment that provided the only frustration I felt during this entire event. In any reading or premier with players and audiences that are not familiar with your music, we as composers will be judged by the outcome of one lone piece. It’s quite scary to some extent and can be a source of frustration. I certainly do not want to be wholly judged by the piece presented here this week. I can only speak for myself, but I believe we all have pieces that work extremely well, others that work fairly well and some that just don’t work or don’t fully represent who we are as composers (see composer X’s withdrawn pieces). This makes creating a body of work so important. Luckily the Nashville Symphony played wonderfully and allowed my piece’s strong points to really come through. For that I am extremely grateful and feel honored to have had my music in the extraordinary hands of Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony.

I enjoyed relaxing a bit tonight with some old friends. It was nice to catch up. Tomorrow I head back to Baltimore and re-enter the real world. I look forward to one more posting to this blog tomorrow before wrapping up this incredible experience.

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