Performance Restrictions, Ethics, and Calls for Scores

It’s been a busy semester of teaching and grading, rehearsals and more grading, and I’ve found myself composing a little less. This isn’t entirely a surprise—it’s my first full year out of grad school, and I’m trying to commit to not writing on absurd deadlines anymore—but it’s been an interesting change of pace. While I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to sit back and really think about what I’m putting on the page, I’ve also learned a lot from watching competitions and calls for scores go by.

The side of me that cares very much about ethics isn’t super impressed with those right now.

Before we get too far into it, I’ll freely admit this is colored by my preexisting dislike for most competitions. Some are fine, but anything that costs money to submit to and doesn’t provide transparency about what that money is used for grinds my gears. (My rule of thumb: for existing ensembles, if there isn’t a cash prize involved, regardless of performance opportunities, competitions and calls for scores should be free to submit to.) Further, the motivation behind competitions specifically has always been a little odd to me. How are any of us realistically going to identify the best composer?

Okay. Time to get back on topic. Otherwise, this is going to get unfocused fast. I’m not the biggest fan of competitions, but I’ve run my share of calls for scores, and for the most part, I don’t mind them. They’re a great opportunity for composers and performers to swap scores for recordings (and performances!) without either party losing a lot of money. They’re especially awesome for composers who have scores sitting around and ensembles who wouldn’t have a lot of access to new music otherwise.

That said, I tend to shy away from calls for scores that are billed as “new works” recitals, and tonight, I want to talk about why.

Continue reading Performance Restrictions, Ethics, and Calls for Scores

Notes from the Margins: Impossible Asks

A lot of the lessons I’ve learned in music school were designed for my male peers.

There are a lot of directions I could go from here; I could talk about the homogenization of the classical canon into the Straight White Men’s Club or the devaluation and exclusion of women and queer people in the jazz tradition or the gendered (and racist, and classist) expectations for concert dress. And while I’m sure I’ll spend time with each of those individually, none of them are quite hitting home for me at the moment.

One such lesson, though, that disproportionally benefits the men I’ve been educated alongside is one of the most important ones a composer learns: how to run a rehearsal of your own music. While a lot of the components of this come down to “don’t be an ass, and make sure you respect your performers,” a large part of why we run our own rehearsals is so we can address questions promptly and ensure the music sounds how we want it to. The core tenets of running a good rehearsal, besides regular community maintenance, are these: “don’t be afraid to ask for what you want” and “be picky.”

To be clear, it’s not that these strategies for running an efficient rehearsal are inherently dehumanizing toward gender-marginalized people. It’s that most of them are only acceptable when leaving the mouths of men. And this is where we get into Pushback City, so I need y’all to stay with me and read everything before you go off and grouse internally. See, I’ve been at this awhile now, and I can tell you what it’s like to be in a rehearsal room where you’re the only gender-marginalized person—and you’re supposed to be the one running the show.

Sometimes it’s fine. Sometimes it’s not.

Continue reading Notes from the Margins: Impossible Asks

I’m Launching a Patreon!

Hello, friends!

I’ve been sitting on these plans for months now, and I’m so excited to finally share them with you. Over the past year, I’ve been floored by the willingness of friends, family, peers, colleagues, and near-strangers to support my art in all its different forms. That support, whether emotional, financial, or professional, has enabled me to reach new heights and produce work I couldn’t even have conceptualized not so long ago. In just two years, I’ve put out a significant amount of work about sexual assault and rape culture. My understanding and use of extended techniques has grown, but I still enjoy mixing them in with more “normal” sounds for a new blend of timbres. I’m braver and more authentic as a performer and artist. I’m so proud of how far I’ve come during my MFA, and even though I know this is just the beginning, it’s a little crazy to believe it’s even real.

As I leave academia (at least, the student side of things) and start bringing my artmaking practices fully into the professional sphere, I’m looking for ways to not only ensure I keep creating new work but get it into the hands and headphones of people who might not always be able to see it performed live. I’ll be rolling these out as they wink into existence, and the first platform I’m adding to my creative portfolio is my Patreon page.

Continue reading I’m Launching a Patreon!

Tell Me About Your Score

Hi! This isn’t an interview, and you’re not really here (though where you’re reading this, technically you’re here and I’m not), so I can’t ask you to sit down or offer you a glass of water. You won’t be getting a job today, but you do care about this outcome. Maybe you paid money to be here, to put your work in front of me, or maybe you didn’t. Maybe I offered to look at it and consider it for free. Either way, you’ve left me alone with your work to decide if I’m going to use it or not.

Continue reading Tell Me About Your Score

Announcing Phantom’s Winter Composers

Phantom Brass is pleased to announce the winners of our Winter 2018 Call for Scores. We had so many great submissions this year and we’re grateful to everyone who participated. We look forward to premiering these works as part of our 2018-19 season.

  • Marina Romani: Prologo (solo tuba)
  • Greg Simon: The Way Through the Woods (trumpet and tape)
  • Jacob Elkin: Tiny Dance
  • Björn Griesheimer: Taratatam
  • Justin Merritt: Album Leaves
  • Emiliano Manna: Gesti
  • Sy Brandon: Capriccio for Brass Quartet

We’re also excited to formally announce the arrival of a new member, composer-trumpeter Sara Sithi-Amnuai. Sara is a fantastic player and we’re delighted to have her onboard beginning in the 2018-19 season. As a group, we can’t wait to see what new challenges we can take on with the added flexibility of a fifth member! ♦

Interested in keeping up with Phantom? Join the mailing list to hear about calls for scores and upcoming events.

The Finalists are Here! Phantom Announces its Second-Round Composers

No time like the present for a call for scores announcement!

As many of you know, Phantom recently wrapped our second call for scores. This time around, we separated the process into two parts: our initial judging and a finalist round,
in which we look at works from ten to fifteen composers and make our selections. In no particular order, our finalist composers for the Winter Call for Scores are:

Continue reading The Finalists are Here! Phantom Announces its Second-Round Composers

April Performances (and other adventures)

Friends,

What a month it’s turned into! April is shaping up to be action-packed in more ways than one. Because I’m about to plunge into a bunch of different performances, I thought I’d take a moment to highlight a few of them here:

Continue reading April Performances (and other adventures)

Ensemble Talk: On Working with Composers (Successfully)

Beginning in undergrad (and sometimes earlier), composers are taught how to approach performers—what to say, what not to say, how to phrase critiques, ask questions, and ensure a successful performance. But because traditional performance institutions, particularly those following the conservatory model, value dead composers above all else (except for that one large ensemble concert a year that’s reserved for new works), it’s not uncommon to encounter performers who haven’t thought all that much about how working closely with a composer can require something beyond basic professionalism. Young performers, particularly those who play works by a composer friend, seem particularly susceptible to this, but everyone can stand to benefit from some organized consideration every once in awhile. So what do composers wish their performers knew?

Continue reading Ensemble Talk: On Working with Composers (Successfully)

YOUR MOUSE GOD iS DEAD (and other new works): presenting the program

Hello again, friends and readers! (I know it’s been awhile. Life gets in the way sometimes. I’ll be back on the blog more in the coming months.)

As we round the corner into March, I’m well into my second semester at CalArts, and that means it’s recital time again! In addition to appearing on a slew of other concerts this semester, I’ll be presenting my own recital, YOUR MOUSE GOD iS DEAD, this Saturday, March 3, at 5PM PST in the Wild Beast. Because I’m in the Performer-Composer program, the show will be a mash-up of my own work and efforts from friends and colleagues around the world. The program is as follows:

Continue reading YOUR MOUSE GOD iS DEAD (and other new works): presenting the program

Here We Go Again: Phantom’s Winter 2018 Call for Scores

Phantom Brass is pleased to announce its winter 2018 call for scores. Formed by John Pisaro, Darren Dvoracek, Megan DeJarnett, and Evan Wendell, Phantom is a brass quartet dedicated to the understanding and expansion of brass chamber music repertoire. We hope to cultivate a diverse collection of works by living composers.

Submissions should be composed within the last five years and written for two trumpets, trombone, and tuba (modified brass quartet) or any subset of these instruments. Trumpets available are B-flat, C, and flugelhorn; trombones available are tenor and alto. Works of multiple movements are welcome, but no work should exceed ten minutes. There is no minimum duration. Limit one submission per composer. Prior winners may not resubmit for one year (fall 2017 winners may submit in fall 2018, etc). We welcome works from all composers regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, or nationality.

To submit, please email a PDF of your score and an audio rendering (MIDI mock-up is fine) to phantombrass4@gmail.com no later than March 15, 2018 at 11:59PM Pacific Daylight Time. The subject line should include Winter Call for Scores and your name. In your email, please include your contact information, a brief bio, your website, and a performance history of the piece. Ten to fifteen composers will move on to the final round of adjudication; these finalists will be notified by April 15. We will contact winners no later than May 1. Composers will receive a performance of their work and a recording of the live performance. Additional performances may occur but cannot be guaranteed at this time.

We look forward to hearing your submissions! ♦