Thursday, December 15, 2005

"You shouldn't have to justify your work" - Judy Chicago

I just got back from my first conference in a long time. It was, I'm sad to say, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.

For those that don't know - Midwest is HUGE, taking up two entire hotels in Chicago, and providing a forum for directors to share ideas - or at least, that is the idea. I found it a bit commercial and a little distasteful. But I didn't stay long - I literally only had a day I could spare in btween finals (another gripe that I have with it is the scheduling).

My purpose in attending was as part of a composers roundtable - I wasn't there to talk compostion, but technology (I didn't get to talk in either session - a colossal waste of $$ on my part). I was dumbfounded by some of the things I heard the student composers say about composition.

First, they (rightly) claimed that Wind Ensemble was a better ensemble to compose for than the Orchestra. While none of them said it in so many words, the relative lack of hundreds of years of tradition is less limiting than composing for Orchestra. Also, with many decent Wind Bands in the schools, performances are more likely to happen.

Now for the fun part. The first composer (I'll keep this anonymous), "Bob", said that his melody come to him in a dream. The second, "Andy" claimed to have written his piece at the age of 17. "Frank" had his melody come to him while walking down the street (and those of you who know me know that I use this EXACT example of a compositional falsehood - it just doesn't happen that way - I guess I was wrong!). Finally, "Jason" wrote his 20 minute long piece in about one month - but I liked his the best in the end.

The best part of the trip, by far, was Berghoff's. Thanks for the great beer, Dario!


Blogger Mike Boyd said...

What these comments clearly reveal is the necessity for many composers to have a narrative that describes their working process. If they stated, "I wrote this piece sitting in my apartment in my underwear, drinking (insert favorite caffinated or alcoholic beverage here) and just trying to crank something out for tomorrow's composition seminar, it would be much more revealing, but essetially would "pull away the curtain." Dreaming and so forth keeps the act of composition in a romantic state that is only accessible by people who dream music (this type of working process is probably more accurate for pornographers than composers really) - it essentially places the act in a special realm where it's accomplished by special people. Anyone who's inclined can stare at a piece of paper or a computer in a caffine-induced haze and probably come up with something interesting if they think outside the box...but then everyone would make art, not the special composers. Describing your art in mystical, cryptic terms makes it seem exotic or unusual. I often think that composers spend more time working on bizarre, half-truthful program notes than their msuic!

12/19/2005 10:39 PM  

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