You can’t have enough friends, especially while you’re a student composer. Too often we focus so much on where we’re going that we forget that we’re already somewhere and miss opportunities that are literally sitting right next to us.
We all tend to focus on the “important” stuff when we think about composers—what they’re trying to say, how they’re saying it, and what effect their work is having on the world around them. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this, but it tends to foster the habit of thinking of a particular composer as more of a concept than a person. By getting a chance to walk through the spaces in which these talented artists work, I am reminded of who they really are—not as names, but as simple, everyday people.
As weeks go, this one has been none too quiet for the symphony orchestra. What I take away from these various and sundry items is that, for as much as folks like to say otherwise, the symphony orchestra is not going quietly into that good night just yet.
One of the vestiges that I have clung to from my pre-teaching days is the idea that I can compose at any time during the year, regardless of what else is going on in my life. I’ve prided myself on the fact that I could “turn it on” when I found time and could write effectively well into the night. As you might imagine, such habits are not exactly healthy.
Arranging pre-existing musical material is, in my humble opinion, a valuable and yet rarely examined tool in a composer’s toolbox, as well as a useful portal through which musicians with little composing experience can enter the wonderful world of creative musical writing.
It is not often that one gets such a parallax viewpoint on the subject of new music in the mainstream media, and the opportunity allows those of us who are active in the profession not only to digest and react to what is being said but also to gain a better sense of how our world is seen from “outside the beltway,” so to speak.
Last night, our guest reminded me of the powerful importance of the performer in our art. It mattered not to me that he was playing music of the past—this was performance of such an intense and effortless nature that I forgot about the music and the master who wrote it.
My inbox has begin to swell with recommendation letter requests from students applying to the graduate programs that they hope will speed them along towards a career. At the same time, I came across two articles whose intentions were specifically to throw some cold water on those idealistic goals.
“Why would you write anything for contrabass trombone?” I knew that such a decision on my part–to take time to create a work of art for such a rare instrument–flew in the face of today’s composer pragmatism that encourages writing for standard ensembles.
Coming up with the idea for a new piece isn’t hard. The gaping chasm that separates the “idea” of the piece from the point where the composer has enough material that finishing the piece feels natural: that is the real challenge.