Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My life as a composer...and not composing a note!

Some of you have read previous blogs (there were only 2) and may be wondering what I am doing now - maybe even what I'm composing.  Well, truly, have have been revising, re-scoring, entering competitions, preparing scores for new competitions, and more.  I was offered a chance to have one of my previous orchestra pieces (Popular Forms for Orchestra) released on PARMA Recordings.  That flattering offer became a source of stress due to the finances *I* would have to contribute which I didn't have.  That was 6 weeks of worry before I declined the offer.  Last week I got 2 notices that I wasn't chosen for 2 competitions I entered.  I must be on the right medications because I shrugged and moved on immediately.

Oh, I did write an aria for a competition - then decided it wouldn't be the opera I wanted if I followed all of their guidelines.  What can I say...I don't want to set Brokeback Mountain but there ARE 2 movies I think would be great operas - on comedic, one serious (neither tragic...)

Also, I was sold a Mac Pro Tower for 100 dollars (Ethernet card is shot...but everything else is solid) and had a patron buy Sibelius 7, Digital Performer 7.2, Kontakt 4, and Miroslav Philharmonic to upgrade my musical life.  It may take the next of the year for me to learn all of this software.

This year which started so strongly as a year of success, may just be a year of music business.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Call From The Opera

In late October 2011, I ran across this notice on the Bridge opportunity e-mail from New England Conservatory:

Art Songs for the 21st Century                  
Composer Competition & Cabaret Performance March 10th 2012,
Ethical Society of Philadelphia
Submit your composition! Deadline: December 9, 2011

The Center City Opera seeks to develop new relationships with composers. While many opera companies do this by examining orchestral music, this seems counter-intuitive to us. We are instead asking composers to submit two of their favorite art songs to us. What do art songs tell us? They tell us if you can write for the human voice. They show us that drama, wit, the balance of music and text, or melody are part of your aesthetic. While skill at orchestration is important, what happens between the music, text, and singer is, dare we say, more important. We will select a group of twelve composers and present two contrasting songs by each composer. We will take at least two composers and invite them to participate in our Creative Development Projects (CDP), a new work development program, possibly leading to production and/or commission on our mainstage. At least one composer selected for the CDP will be chosen by audience vote.
Submit pdfs, preferably with mp3s, of your songs to Andrew Kurtz, General & Artistic Director, Center City Opera Theater by December 9, 2011. Submissions should be via email: artsong@operatheater.org.

This notice intrigued me greatly, so I made an inquiry November 1st  2011, asking if I could submit MIDI files of my songs without vocals.  I never heard back, so I thought “Oh well, another time…”  Imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from Andrew Kurtz at 12:07 AM Saturday January 14, 2012 inviting me to make a submission, but I had to send it in by noon the same day!  Frankly, I didn’t get the e-mail until 10 AM and I didn’t have time to go to my computer store and scan individual .PDFs of 2 songs I wanted to make for the submission.  I sent complete song cycles scores with the MP3s and an explanation of the submission and a request for an extra day if they really need single song scores.  I can only hope the powers that be will be tolerant.

Does anyone think this is a really good sign that there was not a lot of submissions, or just a formality?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Day for an Emerging Composer

Four days before Christmas 2011, I received an e-mail from the director of the Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music – www.pytheasmusic.org -  informing me that I had been chosen as a January 2012 Composer of the Month. Never having heard of the organization before, I thought “this is some sort of scam,” but they never asked for money, and have done everything they promised. On their website’s homepage, they featured my photo along with:  Colin McPhee, Miriam Gideon, Kurt Schwertsik, Ney Rosauro, Julia Wolfe, Ramon Lazkano, David T. Little and Danny Elfman. That thumbnail photo of mine acts as a link to the profile page they created, containing my artist statement, a list of my compositions by chronological order and genre, a link to my live music/MIDI MP3 page for visitors to sample, my various other internet web pages, publishing information and more. They have even featured in their Pytheas Earful section in the first week of this honor my most daring, emotionally demanding, and personal opus, My American Childhood, a three movement suite for orchestra, narrator, and MP3s that details the child abuse I suffered at the hands of my angry, emotionally distant father who used me as his punching bag. 

Why is this Pytheas Center recognition so important to me? 

Houston, Texas, the third largest city in America, is NOT a hub for contemporary composers. Most of the attention goes to international/national prizewinners, composers from other countries, composers from universities across the U.S.A., and composition professors from the Moore’s School of Music - University of Houston, and the Shepherd School of Music - Rice University. The music of these local educators I find stale, but they at least get the occasional performance in Houston's major music organizations, their schools and elsewhere.  Other less connected composers are left out in the cold from the city's organizations that could advance their careers. So, we plod along, writing our pieces, entering competitions, trying to network and make names for ourselves in our hometown’s musical world. I can't speak for the others, but I get frustrated and slightly envious when works by more fortunate composers get performances in the city but my works don’t. 

2012 marks a sea change in my career. A national organization has recognized me and one of the best pieces in my career. Now’s the time I start looking outside my city for recognition and opportunities. New York and Berlin hold great promise for me. Wish me luck.