The Gift of Original Music

The Gift of Original Music

I’m in New York this week for a number of events and meetings, one of which was the retirement party of former American Music Center CEO Joanne Hubbard Cossa. She received one of the most amazing gifts ever—a beautiful box containing handwritten miniature compositions from many artists associated with AMC over the years. Some were written especially for her to commemorate the occasion, while other composers contributed little excerpts from sketches and scores of previously composed works. All included short notes and were signed by the artists. It was fascinating to look through them and see the diversity of composers represented, the distinctive traits of everyone’s manuscript, and of course the actual music they wrote. It’s the sort of thing I would probably pull off the shelf every evening before bed to look through for pre-slumber happy inspiration.

Composers have been dedicating works to performers, commissioners, teachers, and colleagues for ages, but what about music that is not necessarily intended for public performance, such as a lullaby for a newborn? Most of my own compositions are dedicated to a musician or ensemble, and although I’ve often thought about writing a short piece of music simply as a gift for a friend or loved one, I’ve never really followed through. The idea of a snippet of handwritten music (or a recording of a short work, if notation is not your cup of tea) seems like a fun and completely manageable task, as opposed to a fully formed, engraved and bound composition, which feels more daunting, and possibly overwhelming for the recipient. How does one reciprocate—especially if one is not a musician—the gift of a musical score? There are few things I enjoy more than pouring over scores and sketches by other composers; in fact, I find handwritten sketches almost more interesting than a formal score—those materials reveal so much about any sort of artist. So the gift of a bit of music would probably be quite a cherished item for someone who is interested in music.

Composers, have you written music as a gift for someone? What were the circumstances? And if anyone out there has ever received home grown music as a gift, know that even a small thing is actually a very significant thing; that person really cares about you!

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5 thoughts on “The Gift of Original Music

  1. Harold Meltzer

    My friend Carlos Carrillo sent me a beautiful lullaby for the birth of my daughter Julia, and I think of it often still. Julia is eleven now, and is learning to play it.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Marshall

    Composer Carson Cooman regularly sends out Christmas postcards with a miniature composition. It’s a delight to receive.

    I’ve created little pieces as gifts for a nephew that played the trumpet. As a doting aunt and composer, I thought of it as a delightful duty.

    An audio collage for my husband’s birthday included mosquitoes buzzing, in recognition of his cousins who give him mosquito-repellent gifts. I’d captured the sound as the bugs buzzed the microphone during a birding field recording.

    Reply
  3. Katherine

    I’m currently writing a piece for organ as a gift for my grandfather’s 90th birthday. He is a church organist, and after over 80 years of playing I think he deserves a piece written just for him.

    Reply
  4. Dennis Bathory-Kitsz

    Carson Cooman sent along a piece for Stevie’s and my wedding anniversary a few years ago.

    Not long ago I composed two lullabies on request for a grandmother in Maine (she asked for a ‘spiky’ one and a ‘spiral’ one). And there are dozens of pieces over the years written as gifts for the extended family.

    Reply
  5. Emily G.

    I wrote a short solo oboe piece for an amateur oboist friend of mine earlier this year. She said it was the best gift she’s ever received.

    Reply

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