II. Every Journey has a First Step…

The road to October 24 has been a long one. My first proposal to anybody about the project that would become the Great Noise Ensemble performance of De Materie came in late 2006, when I approached the cultural liaison at the Dutch Consulate in New York (at the time a man named Cees de Bever, who has been an extremely supportive advocate for this project, but who has moved on from government work to take on a position in The Netherlands) about organizing a festival of events (I am nothing if not ambitious!) around the commemoration of Louis Andriessen’s 70th birthday in 2009. Obviously, a festival did not materialize (no pun intended—okay, maybe a little) but a seed had been planted. When, in 2008 the Music Center at Strathmore, a major performance venue in the D.C. suburbs announced a call for proposals for its 25th anniversary season, Great Noise Ensemble proposed a performance of De Materie. Unfortunately, because of the economic realities that hit while that contest was taking place, the Strathmore decided to go with a more commercially viable project, but they informed us that they liked our proposal very much and would like to keep it on file for a later season. We then explored the possibility of taking it on in 2010-11, but their projections for ticket sales for such an event were not encouraging and they, unfortunately, had to decline De Materie at this time, booking us instead to do a performance of music by Marc Mellits in their more intimate performance hall in January, 2011.
My dream of performing this piece sometime around Louis Andriessen’s big birthday year seemed to be slipping away from me. Then, I mentioned the project to the head of the Music Department at the National Gallery of Art, who has been a great supporter of Great Noise Ensemble for a number of years now, and who found that he had room in his schedule and his budget, given the pledged support from the Dutch consulate, for this project.
The road I’d embarked upon now had a clear destination.

2 Responses to “A Matter of Matter (II)”
  1. Have you thought about pursuing local, state, or federal grants? I’m beginning to realize that if composers are going to do anything outside academia or established, self-sustaining ensembles then we need to apply for all the grant money we can. Any thoughts?

  2. Armando says:

    Actually, we’ve pursued funding for this project largely through private or secondary channels. As I write, the National Gallery of Art is covering the musician’s fees, the Dutch Consulate is covering part rentals and licenses (which are substantial, at least as far as our own budget is concerned) and the Peabody Institute is funding a week-long residency for Andriessen culminating in our performance of De Materie as well as a concert of his music presented by Peabody students. We’re also approaching the Netherland-America Foundation for funding.

    In more general terms, though, local grants have proven to be the most available to us, although we’ve largely funded the ensemble through the box office and in-kind/volunteer work. None of us will be making a living out of this any time soon, but we’re working towards it. Relying solely on public funding sources, whether locally or nationally, gets dangerous. A good balance between private and public funding (with the emphasis on private donations) seems to be the key–although the hard part of that equation is identifying donors who are as passionate about this kind of music as we are.