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So I've set myself the long-term goal of having my compositions performed and recorded, if not in front of an audience than at least in a rehearsal setting so that I can hear it live and not just MIDI. I just can't figure out how to go about it, or maybe I just haven't worked up the nerve. I've thought of writing to the Music Departments at SMU or UDallas, but whenever I start I feel like a pain, like an aspiring scriptwriter approaching a famous actor. Mind you, I'm pretty sure I'm underselling myself and overselling them, but I can't shake the feeling. Music folks, what would be your reaction to a composer approaching you with a piece?

The process of writing this strengthed my nerve, so I've just written to the music director at UD. Yay!

The little chamber pieces shouldn't be too difficult to get performed, but I have some larger works, including a setting of Poe's The Bells, and of course my Mass. Both would require substantial rehearsal before being performed in anything like the proper manner. And for my mass particularly, I'd like its first performance to have some special significance: I wouldn't want just some random choir doing the premiere. Probably best would be some local choir, and since we're moving soon maybe I should wait until I get to Toledo and look for someone there. Alternatively, having a friend's choir do it would be nice, or even the Williams chorus (whatever it's called these days). But it's also a bigger deal to approach someone to ask them to perform it. The mass is long enough that it would be a significant part of a program.

Any thoughts?
scottahill: (Default)
* Back in 1993 or 94, when I was a freshman in college, I started writing a setting of Edgar Allen Poe's The Bells for six-part choir. I wrote two or three of the four sections, but I began to fret that the piece didn't have thematic unity, that I was writing it in too serial a fashion, one line at a time. This opinion was probably due to the influence of the music department, because as time went on I decided that worrying about thematic unity was bogus, so long as it sounded good. So I pecked at it over the years, until finally, Friday morning, I had a completed draft, 15 years in the making. :) I won't say it's complete: I've put no dynamics and few accents in (I always left those for last, in my composition classes, even though I wasn't supposed to) and it might need tweaking. Still, having something complete which I can show around is awesome. I've set up a website with a PDF file of the score and an MP3 of Finale playing the music. I would love it if the musically-inclined folks here (i.e. almost all of you) would give it a listen. I would be ecstatic if anyone knew of a choir which might be willing to sing it. As is the case with most of my pieces, it's not simple: the third section "Hear the loud alarum bells" is fast and frantic, and I have the unfortunate habit of thinking that a low E is a perfectly reasonable note for basses.

I'm going to put more of my (older) music up on that website as I clean up the scores etc. I'm releasing it under a Creative Commons noncommercial share-alike license, which I think gives me all the protection I need: I don't care about making money off of small groups, but if for some reason one of my pieces makes it "big" I can get a piece of the action. (I'm not holding my breath, of course.) I'm also asking people to send recordings if they perform the piece, because I've never heard most of my work performed before, outside of Finale (which does not do it justice, to put it mildly).

*Car: The incredible battery saga )
We are going to get a new car ANY DAY NOW, preferably before the end of the year so we can take advantage of a Texas environmentally friendly deal where they give us $3000 for our car if we swap it for a newer model. Our car isn't worth $3000; it's a 1994 Ford Taurus and we got it for $1500 or so. So...ANY DAY NOW. :)

* Two weeks ago (or so), Miriam started taking a couple steps before falling down. NOW, Miriam can go all the way across the room while walking, even turn around, and she seems to prefer it to crawling (even though crawling is faster). Yay Miriam! She still walks as if she's on a tightrope; every once in a while she'll attempt a little "fast walk", which inevitably ends in her falling on her butt. (We were at the playground the other day and she decided that she could step down one of the steps without holding on...BANG! went her head. She's getting cocky. :) Fortunately she didn't actually fall so much as fall over, if you get my meaning: just banged her head.
Anyway, I'm very proud of my little yearling.

She had her 1-year doctor's appointment yesterday and passed with flying colors. She's actually 25% for height, a first for her to be below 50%: she apparently shot up and then has now tapered off a bit. Her weight is just fine so no problems. She had lots of shots and tests and stuff which made her very unhappy (it wasn't the poking so much as the being made to lie down bit, I think) but she's recovered. At her doctor's advice, Jen has been trying NOT to nurse her at night when she wakes up, and she says that it really does work: Miriam does stop crying after only a few minutes. Could this be the beginning of all-night sleeping for the women of the house? (It hasn't affected me: I sleep through anything. :)


Mar. 11th, 2008 10:35 pm
scottahill: (Default)
I discovered this evening that, contrary to previous speculation, I'm overly annoyed by music directors even if I'm playing an instrument instead of singing. I've been playing monthly with the Dallas Recorder Society, and most of the time the fellow in charge just hands out music, we read it through a couple of times, comment on how nice it is, and then move on to the next piece. Well, this evening, there was a visitor from Austin (who used to live in Dallas) who had brought along some music, and he wanted to polish articulations and all that. It got very tedious very quickly, and I slumped in my chair in an obvious way: when someone commented, I said that this was triggering my conductor-phobia, and that "I don't like having people tell me what to do" (in what I hoped was a not-too-serious tone). I was hoping for some sympathy, but instead I got "But you can't avoid it in music", which is silly because we get along just fine every month with minimal direction. I didn't get to explain myself and I didn't get any sympathy, so I was rather sulky the rest of the time and slipped out at the end without comment.

This didn't used to be a problem, when I was in high school and even the first two years of college. It could be because I had a taste of directing myself and so crave power...but I didn't FEEL like I wanted to direct the group, I just wanted our usual, pleasant sort of semi-anarchy: I didn't even disagree with what he was saying (which is my usual problem in choirs). Maybe it was a knee-jerk reaction coming after my failed choir experiences in Chicago. It could simply have been that he changed the format of the rehearsal suddenly, and I'm a conservative person by nature.

One thing that occurred to me, relevant or no, is that music had always been a source of affirmation for me. Once I got to 8th grade or so I started realizing that I was a good singer, and my directors started noticing too, and treating me accordingly. It's not that they went out of their way to praise me constantly, which might have gotten embarrassing, but it was that I felt appreciated and valued. That may be the emotion which kept me going through the boredom and frustration. When I look at the point in time where choral singing stopped being fun, it correlates with a loss of appreciation: in my first choir in Chicago I felt like a drone, and was subsequently kicked out; in my second choir there were enough good tenors that I wasn't anyone special. Maybe this sounds ridiculously egotistical, but external affirmation is really important for me, and my self-esteem tends to crash without it. It's probably no accident that my difficulties with work in graduate school coincided with my loss of performance as a place to shine: going from college to graduate school, I went from being a somebody to being a nobody, and I haven't really recovered from that.

However, as I write all this I think of a glaring exception: while I was in Boston I sang with my church choir, where I was easily the best singer except for the director. I was certainly appreciated and valued there, so much so that I stayed with the choir longer than I would have wished so as not to disappoint them, but I found their rehearsals to be excruciatingly dull: I would quite literally feel a desire to bang my head against a wall sometimes. Why? Well, I do remember one resentment from those times: I always wanted to do more solo work, maybe even fill in as cantor for the director, but it didn't happen.

OK, this is starting to sound really pretentious and it's making me feel bad, so I'll just stop here.


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