My MSU composition colleagues and I have made a pact to produce at least one blog per week on our personal websites. Occasionally we will then post our personal blogs on other blogs, such as the MSU composition website. Someone made the point that there is no point in having a blog-style website unless you are producing new material regularly. I’ve been incredibly guilty of not doing much in terms of blogging, or keeping my website up to date. So this year, I’m committed to producing at least a short blog once a week.
This summer, I was one of six composers nationally to participate in the UNL Chamber Music Institute. This was the first time I’ve ever applied to a summer program like this as a composer. For this institute, each chamber group participating is paired with a composer… the composer writes a piece for the group and the group has three days to rehearse and perform it in concert. During this week-long institute, the composers had a daily masterclass, and attended masterclasses about chamber music performance and entrepreneurial led by the members of the Chiara String Quartet. Additionally, the composers had daily rehearsals with their assigned groups.
I was assigned to write for the Quintessential Winds, a wind quintet based in Long Beach, CA. I’ve been in this kick to use old poetry that I have written years ago to drum up inspiration for composing. I found an old poem titled “Looming” for the first movement of the piece.
the dyspeptic looming clouds
stumble over your every word
from your ginger lips
but the careless sting
from frozen red (cheeks
and) ears linger
The first movement started with the pitch center “A” and two simple melodic fragments. From there the long sustained sounds went through series of color shifts, while solo melodic passages interweave within the texture. My current composition teacher described the movement as “organic.” I think that this single word is very accurate in portraying the music.
The second movement was a result of the first movement. I wanted to write a contrasting movement that featured more metric drive and ensemble playing. The harmonic language is based on a synthetic scale I constructed using 8 pitches, and an additional synthetic scale based on the original. After I wrote the music, I used the music to inspire a poem.
A Silver Strand
A silver strand of words
extrudes itself from clinched teeth
out of order, in any order
flits around tenses,
wraps around tense fingers and
curls off a sunken brow.
on an impatient shoulder it rests.
interrupted by jagged punctuations the
strand meteorically dashes to dangle
heedlessly on the tendrils of the sun.
After I finished, I found it appropriate to title the work “Two Poems for Wind Quintet.”
The institute was a fantastic experience! I hope to be able to do more institutes in the future. The performance opportunity was great, but even greater was the networking and bridge building with the other composers and performing groups. This experience led to a commission of a nonet composed of the Quintessential Winds and the Phoenix based Tetra String Quartet. This piece will be written by January and premiered in L.A. sometime in February of 2011.