Archive for October, 2011

Taking a Flyer

I’m experimenting with a trial balloon in crowd sourcing.
UnitedStatesArtists.org has now listed a project involving one development stage for my new big piece: Pure, Cool (Water) – Symphony No. 4.

Why this project?
It’s a piece close to my own heart – five movements for large orchestra, c. 33 minutes long – the newest piece aligning my continuing fascination with phenomena of the natural world with a family focus of long standing centered on environmental preservation: enhancing water quality control and preserving this crucial natural resource.

Equally important to the project coming forward in this way is the truth that artists can get typed.
Demand doesn’t always subsume to our creative visions for the future:
Commissions frequently are based upon an acquaintanceship with a composer’s existing music, primarily the works for a particular medium. Commissioners don’t always track the trend of a composer’s fresh imagining, nor perhaps be quite ready to support a brand-new vision; and it’s especially difficult if the new piece is in a medium for which the composer has written relatively little so far. Since my chamber music and solo pieces are better known than the orchestra works, the current Symphony seems an intriguing, and honest, way to try out a relatively new method for garnering support.
(Plus: If this support does materialize, the contributions from orchestra co-commissioners can be kept to a modest level, resulting in greater number of performances right off the bat, across the country.)

Why this method?

I often whisper in the ear of musicians about to go onstage with their first performance of a work of mine “Take the Dare!”
– With the new Symphony, I’m taking my own advice.

Why this portal?

Unlike other portals, USArtists Projects sets a relatively high bar for vetting the artists they invite in – a credential already in place such as a Guggenheim, or Bush Foundation Fellowship. In addition, they include a fair number of foundations among long term participants. And the project presentations themselves are elaborate, involving video, audio, images and plenty of text.

The project is titled Developing the Full Score of “Pure, Cool (Water)” Symphony.
It will run for one-and-a-half months and can be viewed under my name at unitedstatesartistsprojects.org.

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A bit of nice news —

My recent 2011 Navona CD “Eternal Evolution” is on FANFARE magazine’s Want List for 2011 ( Nov./Dec. issue). The expanded CD includes 4 of my chamber pieces in wonderful performances by the Harlem Quartet and Awadagin Pratt.

(The magazine’s current Sept./Oct. issue carries an interview with me, plus two reviews of this disc and of my Naxos orchestra disc of 2010.)

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Hearing Fast = Shallow Content [?]
first of two posts

A week ago Friday I attended a concert at Arizona State University. (The program closed with a super-hot performance of my sax quartet, Parallel Play – I couldn’t ask for a better delivery!)

What stuck out from the program at large, though, was that the music by the younger composers programmed seemed built according to pretty different expectations of just what audience members were meant to get from their listening experience:

Acceptance that this hearing would in all likelihood be their one-and-only encounter with this piece – and therefore the music’s goals / contents / ambitions needed to abide by reduced dimensionality so that everything possible to glean would be doable in one pass through the piece.

Because I operate from a very different premise, I was struck by the thinness of content – by and large – in the works built accordingly. And their markedly slow harmonic rhythm. And their relatively shorter length.

Don’t get me wrong: There were striking sonorities and hooks aplenty – but they were primarily found in the very opening bars where they serve to capture the ear, and set up the listening presumption that some variation on the first material might occur – but also that that’s all there would be /could be. It makes for a tidy presentation, but (for me) is a curiously lifeless way to sustain originality in any artistic statement.

– Sure, we want the basic materials of a piece actively refreshed to our ear from time to time; that’s what Recaps (and Developments) are for. (Not to mention the essence of fugue.) Affirmation and confirmation are for sure important signals in crafting comprehensible forms.

But, by the same token, shouldn’t there be the delight of un-expected discoveries, un-anticipated adventuring in the music? If not these, then how can a piece be memorable? — something savored so much in retrospect that – like a good book – you just have to seek it out for repeated encounters.

Six years back I participated in a panel discussion with 2 other composers of wind ensemble music, and the youngest guy there confided to the room that he builds his movements by the following formula:
Present three distinguishable bits, then toss them about for the movement’s length. Is this today’s industry standard??

~~

Shana tovah ! to everyone.

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