I have an interesting commissioning story to tell.
A couple of years ago, Christopher Bush, a clarinetist who occasionally comments here on S21, asked me if I would be interested in writing a piece for him. Chris was a student in one of my classes at UNCSA in the mid-90s; he’s now a great player based in the NYC area. I said sure, and he proceeded to apply for the usual array of grants that support commissioning.
Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t the best. As everyone knows, funding for everything dried up in the wake of the fall ’08 financial meltdown; Chris wasn’t able to get any support for the project. He then suggested Kickstarter as a way of raising funds. I briefly considered it, but then I got another idea.
As I put it to Chris, I love money, and I’m always very happy to get paid for what I do. But there are some things that are more important to me, or at least more important under the right circumstances. In the case of a clarinet piece, I’d just as soon get a bunch of performances for the piece as make a few hundred dollars from a commission. So I suggested to Chris that he round up all of his clarinet friends to create a cluster premiere of performances around the country, all around the same time. He agreed, and we targeted fall 2011.
So far, Chris has rounded up seven clarinetists, and we have performances in the works for New York, Boston, Washington DC, Birmingham, Miami and Richmond. More may develop in the coming months.
Again, I’m a big fan of getting paid, but I also love the idea of bartering – trading commodities. I can create the music, but I can’t easily organize performances of it in more than a couple of locations. A network of clarinetists, though, can give me those performances, along with the increased possibility of further performances down the road.
The piece is called GPS Lady; Chris is playing a pre-premiere preview of the piece this Saturday night at the Summerland Music Society – info here – with pianist Carol Minor. I won’t be able to attend — but I expect to have the opportunity to catch some further performances as the weather cools.