I needed to find an intuitive and efficient way to work with 106 notes per octave. The immensity of new musical possibilities can seem overwhelming.
Residencies attached to big-name institutions and faculty (and often equally hefty fees) offer certain perks, but there are many opportunities out there for musicians and composers that are both more affordable and more accessible—and may even offer a better fit, depending on your needs and goals. Elisabeth Blair has assembled a list of 24 low-cost (or free) opportunities in the USA and Canada which you may not have heard about before, but should definitely check out. Had a great experience you don’t see in the list? Give it a shout out.
All of us, as composers, have origin stories. If you’re like me, it may have been a series of revelatory moments, like an unseen hand guiding you down a path—to where, you may not have known until you got there.
Isolated methods of music practice are rapidly multiplying without a framework of integration and orientation for musicians and listeners to grasp. The polychromatic system is one framework of integration for the various scale configurations of micro-pitch music.
While still on the fence about attending the Midwest Clinic, the largest international band and orchestra conference in the world, I was pointed to a Facebook post from composer John Mackey who purchased a booth in the exhibit hall and was offering it up, free of charge, to self-published composers who are people of color and/or identify as women.
In July 2016, I received a call from Monadnock Media asking if I’d be interested in scoring one of their short films intended for the soon-to-be-opened museum. Monadnock’s style was about the closest marriage between music and picture I’d encountered in over two decades of film composing.
We have no words for many perceptual aspects of hearing–imagery, visualization, dimension, space, etc.–so we are faced with communicating auditory concepts in analogy or metaphor. My perspective is to link visual and auditory perceptual concepts into an idea of ‘pitch-color’.
Although Michael J. Schumacher has stated that he is interested in “defining boundaries and not crossing them,” he does not let that limit his own extremely wide range of musical activities—from the immersive Room Pieces and other sound installations to dance collaborations with choreographer Liz Gerring, to his indie “dance pop” band diNMachine. “I love lots of kinds of music; I’m just aware of the differences,” he explains.
You’ve written a band piece. Now what? If you were commissioned by an ensemble to create something new just for them, a few problems are likely already solved for you: instrumentation, difficulty level, length, and first performance. And you’ll probably get paid, too! It’s a great gig. Another way to enter the world of educational band music is to compose on spec. There is a lot of value to be found in filling your catalog with multiple pieces at a variety of grade levels.
The carillon is one of the most public of instruments, yet most people never know who it is playing the instrument since the performers hidden from view, Carillonneurs strive to convince audiences that we are not machines playing the same tunes each day; we are real humans capable of expression and dynamic variation with lots of diverse repertoire.
Don’t give up on #NetNeutrality. The FCC currently has the authority to do what it has just done and repeal net neutrality rules. But Congress can step in and pass legislation that repairs the damage.
The leveling system provides a shortcut for educators who are looking for new pieces. It has also helped create a set of standards. There is basic agreement between the various publishers and the state lists about what the grade levels mean, but there is also overlap between the levels.
New Music USA being all about the discovery of new sounds, staffers here like to celebrate the end the year with a shout out to a track that caught their ears and hung on for any number of good reasons. Don’t see a 2017 favorite of yours? We hope you’ll tell us more about it below in the comments so we can all give it a listen.
New music offers the world something unique that is worth sharing as broadly as possible. We desperately need to get better at sharing it.
Some people think confidence is the key to success. It’s a handy rationale because we can always blame our lack of productivity on our lack of confidence. Let’s overturn those assumptions.
“How can I make the act of creating new art feel less like work and more like PLAY?” Danny Clay has been asking this question of himself and others to inspiring result. Composing can be messy. Why not just make something you feel like making? The music might surprise you.
Music is an art form and defies boxes and labels, but leveling music makes it easier to sell.
High standards and a pursuit of the ideal are the hallmarks of any creative practice, but perfectionism can prevent us from appreciating or even achieving extraordinary results. How do we allow for the playful, exploratory, and experimental part of the process as well as for the critical, and analytical part?
Megan Ihnen was worried. Getting mired in small tasks without a big vision kept her incessantly “busy” but accomplishing very little until she felt completely burnt out. In the end, it wasn’t self-care and motivational Pinterest quotes that recharged her, but something much more direct: the inspiration and productivity that can naturally follow audacious (but clearly defined!) goals.
Flow: it’s that magical place when we are “in the zone” and operating at peak creativity—we’re focused, our mind is quiet, we’re working with a marvelous ease and time seems to disappear. How can we set ourselves up to get to the flow state more consistently?
I’ve found this to be true again and again: get past the difficulty of starting by simply starting. How to do that looks different every time, so there’s no secret trick to it. The only consistency is that starting is the transition from merely thinking about composing to actually composing.
Doing our best work demands that we get past the voices of our fears, self-limiting beliefs, and self-defeating assumptions. What has helped you?
Somewhere in the homestretch of writing a new composition, I become convinced—temporarily, falsely—that not only is there nothing redeemable about this awful piece, but that composing itself is meaningless, I’ve committed myself to a worthless career, and I’m a bad composer.
Whether it’s a new piece we’re writing, a work we’re learning, an ensemble we’re launching, or a fundraising campaign we’re spearheading, let’s look at what helps us to bring our best and get the work done.