Thursday, January 15, 2015

Process (a #TBT)

Process (a #TBT)

It is always recommended for artists of all stripes to carry some kind of notepad or sketch pad with them at all times, for jotting down ideas on the go.

This is a page from my notepad/scheduler from April, 2010. You can see my classes for that day, that it was a sunny day, a reminder to bring life savers to my voice lesson the next day, and that I planned to watch Casablanca off Netflix that evening. (Old-school DVD style!) I also wrote down a few stanzas of poetry as the lines came to me, because I was sitting on the bus thinking about what a nice day it was. Later that day I edited the four stanzas into a poem, and a while later set them to music as a song.

So you never know when, in between grocery trips and bus rides on a sunny day, you might have an idea that can go somewhere with a little more work.

April 12, 2010 - Sunny day!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Music Highlights of 2014

2014 has been a strong year for me in pursuing my goals as an emerging composer.

In March, I had the privilege of having one of my works-in-progress read by the professional string group from Moscow, Chamber Orchestra Kremlin. This was a tremendous experience, and I was much impressed by their playing skill. They inspired me to want to write more for orchestra.

In the spring I finished my first year as a graduate student in the Masters program at WOU, and continued working on new pieces, including a short work for guitar and winds called Cranes.

On Dec. 3, my first complete piece for full orchestra, Citations Musicales, was performed by the Western Oregon Symphony. It is a suite of three movements based on piano works by French composer Erik Satie. Working with the symphony was another excellent experience for me as a composer.

I did not perform much this year, but had the honor of singing in the Western Hemisphere Voices backing choir for influential songwriter Allen Toussaint’s show with Western Hemisphere Orchestra on Dec. 6.

I also sang this year with Vox Capitolio, a new choir being organized by a friend from WOU. We performed a program of Christmas classics at several local venues, finishing off with a well-received performance at the Zoo Lights in Portland on Dec. 23.

All in all, this has been a pretty great year for my music, and I look forward to 2015 when I will be completing my Master’s degree, putting on a recital of more of my latest works, and producing a recording project. I will continue to put my music forward for performance opportunities as I further hone my craft. So stay tuned for further developments from me, and I wish you all a happy and successful 2015!

And thanks for all the likes and shares! I appreciate knowing people are interested in what is going on with me and my music! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My First Orchestra Work to be Performed This Week - Reflections

This coming Wednesday night (Dec. 3 @ 7:30pm) the Western Oregon Symphony will be performing one of my pieces, Citations Musicales, an arrangement I made of three Erik Satie piano pieces, transcribed and adapted for full orchestra. This has been a wonderful project for me, and it will be the first time a complete orchestra work of mine will be performed publicly. (Listen to a sample of the music on YouTube here.)

It is actually going to be the third time I have worked with an orchestra on a piece of mine. This past March, I had a reading session with the visiting strings-only group, Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, of two movements of a totally original composition titled Enkidu Suite (inspired by the Gilgamesh epic). The reading went really well — they are amazing players — but the piece is still a work-in-progress and not ready for public performance. Still, while working on that piece I was inspired to work on a piece for full orchestra, and came up with the plan of doing the Satie arrangement and began working on it almost a year ago. In June, The Western Oregon Symphony performed an early version of the first movement of Citations Musicales.

I find Satie’s style very evocative and striking. The Sarabande that I orchestrated is probably my favorite of his pieces, and I find it very charming and beautiful. Each of the three pieces I selected presented different challenges for how to use the orchestra to capture the essence of the music. i am sure with each one my technique has grown considerably.

Something else I am learning in this process is how much work is involved with seemingly simple tasks such as revising the score and parts when I decide on a change or find a mistake. I have done one relatively “minor” revision to the first movement, and made small changes or fixes to quite a few of the parts. (Just tonight we found a mistake in the cello part, and decided on a change in the timpani part!) I have no idea how much time total I have spent just revising parts and score, but any change always takes longer than I would anticipate. “Engraving” a music part involves not just the notes, but anything relating to the overall format that might change when you change a note. A change in a part also needs to be reflected in the conductor’s score, which has very different formatting requirements. So revisions are a detail-oriented and time-consuming task! When possible I try to maintain a file of my own notes on changes needed, so I can do as many in a batch as I can.

I am pleased to be presenting my piece, and thankful to the orchestra players and director Dr. Ike Nail for making this possible. I anticipate a great performance on Wednesday night, and I know this has been a great experience for me as a composer!