I’m judging a competition sponsored by the London Symphony Orchestra and Notion Music this summer. The other two judges are John Corigliano and Carter Burwell- I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know Burwell’s name until I looked him up and found out he is huge in Hollywood, having scored many of the Coen Bros. films, among many other credits.Anyway, I’ve been sent ten scores, the finalists, along with a CD of realizations using Notion software, which uses samples of the London Symphony Orchestra for its sound library. Instead of being asked to pick a winner, I’ve been asked to rank the ten pieces in order of preference.

Creating these rankings really puts me in a tight spot, as far as measuring my own priorities as a composer. For example, in the middle of the pack I have one work that has some really terrific ideas but serious notation and orchestration issues, and another piece that is all cliché from beginning to end, but the most technically polished of the bunch. Which one will be number five, and which one will be number six?

A personal peeve is the ridiculously high horn writing in almost all of the finalists’ scores. But who is to blame them? A computerized horn can hit a hundred high Cs over the course of ten minutes without blinking. But I definitely wouldn’t want to be in the room when the fourth horn player in the LSO attempts the same.

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