I thought we might talk about what musical goals y’all have for the New Year. I know I have some.

Last year, inspired by Jay Batzner, I resolved to send out two scores every month–to competitions, calls, or just musicians with whom I have some sort of connection. I am happy to say I met the goal of 24 scores in November and exceeded it by a few this month. I plan to continue this practice in perpetuity.

This year, I have three new resolutions.

1) Write some pieces that are easy to play. My last three pieces–a string quartet, large-ensemble work, and unaccompanied violin piece–were all really tough to play. I’m proud of all three, and, though I’ve revised the large-ensemble piece (thanks to Tom Myron), their virtuosity is part of their identity. But it’s time to revisit simplicity for a while and try to be a bit more practical. As I keep telling people: I’ve never regretted writing an easy piece.

2) Do more ear training. I perennially desire to get in the habit of waking up early and doing some aural skills work on my computer for about a half-hour or so. Why ear training? Because it allows you to get more out of the music you listen to. My ears improved markedly while teaching aural skills at Brooklyn College, but they really do have a ways to go before I’m satisfied with them. Why not get serious in 2009?

3) Begin establishing my music theory creds. I’ve too long just been a music theory dabbler: pleased with my expertise while not doing much original research outside seminar papers and my dissertation. Time to get some conference papers and spiff up the diss for publication. (I’ll resist for the time being speculating on the relationship between theory and composition. I’ll say right now I don’t see how they can have an essentially negative influence on one another.)

But enough about me.  How about you?

15 thoughts on “Musical New Years Resolutions”
  1. 1.) Two Recitals (one light, one more ‘serious’)
    2.) Get some excellent material “in the can” both audio and video.

  2. Although there’s a lot of conflicting things going on for me right now – help and companionship for elderly parents, need for more income – I really want to resolve to write music every day. Too often the day goes by and all I’ve taken care of is the drek on my desk, in my house, and on my computer and haven’t gotten to writing.

  3. I’m so glad to read all of these inspiring resolutions and excellent ideas. I hope to pursue many of them, but would add a couple of my own.

    -Continue to work on my languages. I just gave a paper at a conference in France, and realized how long it’s been since I studied Italian, French, and German. Our university just added Rosetta Stone in the library – I know it’s not ideal, but it might refresh some of my chops.

    -Experimenting with different formal shapes in my compositions. I’ve been tending towards pithy designs of late, and would like see if I can create some more ‘expansive’ music this year.

    -Score study. There’s always more of this to be done!

  4. I resolve to:

    (A) Finish the dang dissertation already. It’s past time, and I’m almost done.

    (B) Compose. Every day. I need to remember what my first composition teacher (Fred Mueller, Morehead State, may he RIP) said: “Write every day. You won’t always write the golden page, but that’s OK.”

    (C) Discover a new composer every week. It will help with my own composing and my own teaching of composition.

    (D) Submit, submit, submit! Not only does tenure and promotion depend on it, it’s the only way I’ll get a wider audience (not that hard to do, since the audience is now the wife and pets for the most part). This applies to theoretical work as well. No more hiding behind ABD.


  5. I highly, highly recommend Atlantic Center for the Arts for meeting new people and just getting excited about music again. See if any of their residencies interest you:


    A friend I met there is now at Banff and she seems to be meeting new people there and actively collaborating and recording stuff with them, too. Helps if you’re Canadian, but you don’t have to be.

  6. Yeah, somehow when writing the post, I forgot about my spell last summer recording some piano improvisations. Another goal. As for musicians I already know, I feel I rely on them too much as it is. Time to focus more on meeting new people. That’s going okay for now, it seems…

  7. RE: Transcription. Yes Andrea! My arranging work requires a lot of transcribing. It’s way more fun than drilling and it tunes your ears right up.

    And thanks for that link.

  8. as an alternative to the black hole, why not write more for people you know? true, the odds of them playing it might be only slightly better than the black hole, but still. a corallary to that is to write for yourself (you’ve met yourself, haven’t you?), even if — or maybe especially if — you think you suck: this would jump start both your goals of writing music that is simpler, yet still effective, yet still you, with the added bonus of helping your ears and your musicianship skills, too.

    another alternative would be to start your own band/ensemble. with you in it.

    along the lines of ear-training: i’ve been doing a lot of transcribing for my dissertation and hooboy does that do a number on the ears! i’m a big fan of Transcribe! by these lovely brits:
    when i’m done my diss, i hope to do more transcribing of things i love that aren’t notated already.

  9. I’m honored to serve as a positive example! I always view sending out scores a bit like the lottery. “You can’t win if you don’t play” kind of mentality. I’ve had things accepted to groups that I don’t remember sending things to, which is a nice feeling.

    I know what you mean about ear training, too. MacGAMUT is okay, but I’ve found a lot of usage from musictheory.net. More basic than GAMUT, but great for that “drill and practice” basics.

    All the best for 2009!

  10. Galen–

    Not much response at all, though I did win an honorable mention in a contest, and the peace of mind value is worth it. (At least I tried and so forth.) The lack of conclusive response, however, does sometimes give one the feeling one’s throwing work down a black hole.

    Ear-training: MacGamut is good enough for me, though I’m sure I would find equally good and maybe better stuff if I really snooped around.

  11. Finish Bats in the Belfry and then possibly close the door on music for the public until the case of my death or I was able to compose full time. Thinking of composing, while releasing description of works through a website and blog.

  12. Nothing much more than to keep it going… With 30-some years of this under my belt, I’ve got a little over 30 hours of music “in the can”, over 300 pieces and counting. And still there’s always something new and even slightly wonderous that pops up, often when I least expect it. So here’s to the “pop”, for all of us, in 2009. And just to waft out the old and in the new, you’re all welcome to download this 2008 piece, “Aurora”, for piano and treated recording (Ysaye’s 5th violin sonata):


    You are the here and now of everyone who’s been, and you’ll be present in great things to come by people you’ll never know. Salud!

  13. My goal is to write a piece for sax quartet that was requested by Brian Kauth. And if feasible, I’d like to digitize one or two older pieces that are still hand-notated. Other than that, I have no goals.

  14. Very glad I could be of help.

    One of the things that having a lot of orchestral music played has taught me is that everything is harder to perform/hear/rehearse/coordinate/balance than you think.

    Good luck with your resolutions amigo.

Comments are closed.