The Underwood Readings wrapped up this afternoon, and it was a bittersweet ending for me. While it’ll certainly be nice to relax after a very intense weekend, these last three days were extraordinary, and I’m a little sad to see it end. Working with the orchestra was of course the primary focus of the event, but I also found real inspiration in the time I spent with the other composers, readings participants and mentors alike. The six works that made up this year’s program were all strong and very different from one another, too; hearing how each composer handled the orchestra so distinctly has certainly opened up my understanding of how to grapple with such an enormous beast.
On the topic of diversity, our group of mentor composers was another prime example, and while their backgrounds were varied—from Tanglewood to Hollywood—in examining each of our pieces during today’s “aesthetics and form” feedback session, they came to the same conclusions far more often than not (possibly evidence of clever planning, but more likely of the fact that they all really know what they’re talking about). And while it can be a difficult thing to hear your work criticized, especially in front of a group of your peers, the advice was so good, so spot-on, and delivered with such respect and the clear intention of helping us grow, that I didn’t feel in the least like a “fish on the cutting board” (to borrow a phrase from one of the other slightly apprehensive composers). I could use this kind of artistic questioning on a regular basis, and a repeat experience of these readings, too, but I guess I’ve had my turn now. It was a memorable one!