Well, I am writing this on my employer’s computer during work hours. And I don’t even feel guilty about it – the same increases in productivity via computers and the Internet that now allow me to do the work of three people for my employer (at the same pay, of course) also lets me do some extra-curricular activities – all with time to spare.

I find I can get a lot of networking done on Facebook, G+ and the various new music blogs during work hours. Reading articles, posting comments and maybe creating some album artwork – all easy to do between phone calls, quoting prices, responding to emails or rewriting technical specs for our products where I work. I can also print out scores, break out the parts and get them ready for copying. So one way to leave more time for composing at home is to get all the other stuff done at work. Of course I have my cubicle set up so I can quickly put my emergency spreadsheet on the screen as soon as anyone approaches, but that is actually pretty rare.

At home I try to reserve the same time slot each week for composing and for me this is Saturday morning. I’ve been able to sleep in so I am refreshed, the house is quiet and I know I can concentrate on getting all the notes in the right places. I work strictly by PC – so I don’t need to bang around on a piano or fool with staff paper – it all goes straight into the notation program. When I’m finished I can print out a .pdf score and upload to my website in just a few minutes.

I do a bit of processing to the resulting midi file – sequencing, normalizing, maybe stretching or adding some reverb, echoes or equalization. But the final mp3 or .wav file can be uploaded directly, again in a matter of minutes. Everything is on my laptop so I can do this pretty much anywhere – although I prefer the familiar surroundings of home. But the whole process is a beneficiary of the efficiency that the PC (and Mac) has brought to music creation over the last several years.

All of this has encouraged me to believe that a full-time day job need not prevent the composer from a reasonably productive musical output. Many of us must make a living outside of music – and even if you are teaching the academic life is pretty crowded with job-related responsibilities. It might even be argued that a full-time composer will spend much of his time on non-composing tasks anyway – networking, rehearsals, traveling, overseeing the distribution of scores, etc.

So what makes you productive? Do you have a full-time day job? How would your composing habits change if you could work at it full time? If you now work exclusively at writing music, what is the best thing about full-time composing?

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[Note: Philip Fried is a composer mentioned before on S21; I've known him forever as a long-time commenter over at NewMusicBox, and as composer-in-residence for Minnesota's Opera Bob. Phil had a bit of a brain-worm spinning around in his head, and asked if he could share this thought over here at our forum.]

Bear with me. Stockhausen created an opera, part of which requires an instrumental performance in moving helicopters.  I saw this on video. John Cage creates a work where the player doesn’t ‘play’ in the traditional musical sense, but turns a page in time. (It would be easy to say that this is simply a theater piece for a musician to perform, Mr. Cage was a theater composer after all.)  Recent European music plays a lot with timbral similarity and disparity.  In the vocal realm an opera can have editorial that can’t be perceived from hearing the work. Sound artists create works that are site specific.

These works have a similarity; in effect they are creating new instruments. That is, the instruments are not playing music so much as the “music” creates a singular and unique instrument. Sometimes it’s a disposable, one-performance-only work. Other times it’s features are reusable. The laptop is not the instrument itself, rather it is part of a larger exploration of time, space, and event. A part of many.

A performance in a moving helicopter implies that the moving space itself is part of a site specific instrument. Is the video a useful recreation or not?

Naturally all musical ensembles and performing abilities — chamber music, grand opera, solo piano, recital — have their particular time and place to perform. Then where and in what context might beginners, advanced, students and professionals in these different styles perform?  Strictly speaking these rules are no longer the case. The space can become part of the work.

An orchestra has long been considered an instrument with many performers; so too are bands and many other instrumental configurations. The creation of “super instruments” — that is, joining several similar or different acoustic/electric instruments into a single formation or unit that act as one instrument (that is mostly rhythmic or gestural unison) — is quite popular especially in Europe, combining an instrument with a voice or voices, or electronics as a single formation. Or the melody, the obbligato, and the accompaniment act as one multifarious singularity. All kinds of composers and sound artists are creating sounds and music that explore and develop these new solo and multi-player instruments.

It seems to me that post-modernism is focused on music that creates new instruments, rather than in modernism which used instruments to create new music. If that makes any sense… Thoughts?

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[Ed. Note -- Jeff Harrington has been doing the composer-promotion thing on the web just about as early as anyone could. Now working out of France, Jeff has written a bit about his own long experience, and wanted to share that with you all.]

Here’s a short article I wrote upon request from somebody teaching a course in Digital Musicianship.  I offer it as a way to encourage discussion about the costs and benefits of the free culture model.  Please pardon the informal nature of it…

My strategy… is basically to get my music into as many people’s hands as possible without expectations of renumeration. What happened to my wife and I in the early 80′s informed the process where I invented the free culture system.

We’d both had to drop out of college, me from Juilliard and Elsie from Pratt because of money problems. We were quite angry about this and started a street art project. This was 1982. At the same time we started showing Elsie’s paintings on the street in the West Village, right on Spring Street to be exact in the heart of Soho. We showed these huge paintings with a sign saying, “Not for Sale.”

This was pretty shocking to people and we started getting more and more interested in seeing where that could take us. We created series of non-destructive art works in chalk and with rubber stamps and displayed them all over NYC. Eventually, we became so famous (or infamous) that we started a whole mini-art movement in NYC and started receiving death threats… we ended up having to flee NYC, broke and regroup in New Orleans.

In New Orleans we continued giving our art away through the mail art networks. These were exchanges where you’d send a piece of art to somebody and then they’d send you something back. These turned into zines eventually, and from there into multiples and even gallery shows. When the computer networks started up in the early 80′s with BBS’s it was a natural progression to take our art give-away there.

I was probably the first serious artist to use the BBS system to distribute art, although I’m sure there were a few more; nobody at the time seemed to have come from the street art/mail art networks. I uploaded the score (as a set of GIF images) to my Variations for String Quartet onto a BBS in 1987 which is probably the earliest music give away. I started distributing MIDI files of my pieces around this time. It was very interesting to upload a MIDI file or a graphic and then watch it get uploaded by a fan to another site. At about the same time I started embedding my music into synthesizer patch downloads. I first distributed my Acid Bach series as a component of a synthesizer patch library I created for the purpose of having a compelling download. That is, I designed the patch library so that people would want it and coincidentally listen to my music. This way they’d have a high quality musical experience akin to the MP3 playback today through the use of the same synthesizer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Literally… For a while now, and with far too little recognition, a group of composer-students at Michigan State University have been running their own weekly videocast/podcast. Called SoundNotion, it’s a place where composers share geek-talk with — and more importantly, for — other composers. Whatever’s going on, from the recent Pulitzers to new hot works, current web memes to just your general composerly “what’s up with that?!?”, SoundNotion is a reasonably smart, witty, casual place to catch up with concerns of up-and-coming composers figuring out this musical  world today. The regular cast includes  Patrick Gullo, David MacDonald, Sam Merciers and Nate Bilton, enhanced with the occassional guest composer, guest interviews, etc. etc. Here’s the latest episode, with topics including:

  • Q2 (from WQXR) has put together a list of 100 composers under 40.
  • The Pulitzer committee announced that Zhou Long would be receiving this year’s award for his opera Madame White Snake.
  • We’re going to be in Chicago this Friday (Apr. 29) for the New Music USA Town Hall Meeting, 5pm, Roosevelt University. See you there!
  • Help us find a summer music festival to cover.
  • Do you have what it takes to be the next Iron Composer?
  • CalArts robot orchestra is ready to jam.
  • Is “avant-garde” still a relevant idea?
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    “For me the only new music would be music that a composer of genius successfully created on the periphery of all the movements of our time and in the face of all current slogans and manifestos. Generally speaking, whatever the intellectual movements in force, not enough attention is paid to matters of temperament and originality…” –Henri Dutilleux

    On 22 April, the newly established Ensemble: périphérie will begin its inaugural tour. The ensemble’s mission is to promote contemporary music by presenting stimulating and inspiring concerts of new chamber works, by commissioning new works from both emerging and established composers, and by inviting audiences to join us in recognizing great art of our time. One of the primary goals of E:p is to bring greater exposure to composers and works that are underperformed and neglected—that is, music that lies on the periphery.

    From our “Call for Scores,” we received over 130 high-quality submissions and selected the following composers for performance: David Smooke, Philippe Bodin, Mike Barnett, and Mark Zuckerman.  We also commissioned a new work by German composer Klaus Hübler, and will perform works by Russian composer Irina Dubkova, and German composer Robert H. P. Platz, one of our advisory board members.

    If you are in the area, please come to one of our upcoming performances:

    22 April at 7:00 pm – Daehler-Kitchin Auditorium, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA

    24 April at 7:30 pm – Riverside Recital Hall, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, hosted by the Center for New Music

    25 April at 7:30 pm – University of Minnesota, Morris

    Please also check our website for more information, and for audio excerpts of the works performed (coming soon).

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    The Washington Post’s music writer Anne Midgette put out an interesting blog post about the importance of linking to other critics when publishing a review on a piece or concert or CD. I found it pleasing to read a prominent music critic’s acknowledgment that her opinion is not the be-all, end-all.

    In contrast, Montreal Gazette guest blogger Arthur Kaptainis published a preview of the Montreal New Music Festival a couple weeks ago where, at the end of the post, he suddenly rails against Michael Daugherty’s Grammy win. Kaptainis’ opinions aside, he is factually incorrect inasmuch as he cites Daugherty’s win for the “Metropolis Symphony”, when the New Classical Composition Grammy went to Daugherty’s piano concerto, “Deus ex Machina”. As I read Kaptainis’ piece, it became clear he was using Daugherty to attack the Grammy’s in general.

    Just wanted to share these with our community of critics to see what others think!

    To provide full disclosure, Michael Daugherty personally drew my attention to the Montreal Gazette article. I am a student at the University of Michigan, where he teaches, but he is not my private instructor.

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    I just saw this blog post on Alex Ross’ twitter feed and read through it. It makes a great argument (by great, I mean it uses real statistics) to prove funding the arts produces MORE jobs than funding other, more popular areas of the economy, namely alternative energy.

    Here is Ross’ tweet, to whet your appetite:

    “Alternative energy…generates 1.67 jobs per $100,000 spent, while the arts generates 2.94 jobs per $100,000 spent”

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    A big thanks to Tim Rutherford-Johnson for alerting us to the video below. If you’re a comp student anywhere from the grand palaces to the podunk armpits of this country, you really should get to know both Michael Pisaro and Aaron Cassidy. I’d wager they aren’t on many professors’ radar, yet they’re both quietly but powerfully influencing directions in contemporary music that I think will only become more prominent in the next decade. And here you get to have a free sit-down-’n-listen on a conversation between the two. It’s little pieces of the puzzle, that often will barely appear in classes, that help you see the real lay of the musical terrain you’re going to be navigating. So pay attention and enjoy:

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    Call for Scores:

    Deadline: January 31, 2011

    The contemporary classical music website Sequenza 21 (http://www.sequenza21.com), in partnership with Manhattan New Music Project (http://www.mnmp.org/), is pleased to issue a call for scores. Composers of any age may submit a single work with the following instrumentation: violins (2), viola, cello, piano, and percussion. Works for smaller groupings (solos, duos, trios, etc.) that employ the above instruments are especially welcome.  In the interest of performing as many entries as possible, pieces that are shorter in duration may be preferred.

    Several pieces will be selected from these entries for our 2011 concert in New York City (date/location TBA), performed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble – ACME (http://acmemusic.org). The program committee will include Christian Carey (Sequenza 21), Clarice Jensen (ACME), and Hayes Biggs (Manhattan School of Music).

    There is no entry fee. There is also no remuneration apart from the performance. Those composers selected for the concert will be responsible for their own travel and accommodations should they wish to attend the event.

    Scores with CD recordings (if available) will be accepted at the address below until 5 PM on Monday, January 31, 2011. Please do not send parts at this time. Materials will be returned if accompanied by an SASE with appropriate postage.

    Sequenza 21/MNMP 2011 concert



    243 West 30th Street,

    Suite 500,

    New York, NY 10001


    Deadline: 5 PM on January 31, 2011 (receipt of materials; not postmark deadline)

    Age limit: none

    Entry fee: none

    Limitations: only one (1) work per entrant will be considered.

    Instrumentation: vlns (2), vla, clo, pno, perc

    Prize: a New York performance by ACME, sponsored by Sequenza 21 and MNMP.

    Return of materials: With SASE

    Submitted works that do not conform to the above guidelines cannot be considered for inclusion on the program.

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    Happy Holidays to the Sequenza21 community!

    I got a Kindle from my parents for Christmas and I’d like suggestions for your favorite books (fiction or nonfiction, music books strongly desired!) for me (and any one else who also got a kindle or borders gift card or likes books) to consider putting on my eReader!

    Thanks and I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season!

    - Garrett

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