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oh burn

Apologies for not posting in a while: I am in the processes of loading all my books and a few personal items into cardboard boxes and dumping them into my new office,which needs some serious interior design work, as you can see in this photo.

I've also been working on a last-minute commission for the Contemporary Arts Center, which is now done and will be performed in less than two weeks. My librettist and I brainstormed and decided it would be a three-movement choral piece (SATB) entitled Drei Brücken, which will depict Cincinnati's past, present, and future via the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, the current Brent Spence Bridge, and the future Brent Spence Bridge.

After this piece premieres, my librettist and I would like to have this piece performed again, and so she was diligently searching for other performance opportunities. She discovered the International Choral Bulletin 2012 Composition Competition's site, which lists guidelines here. Here is how they begin.

"A year or so has passed since the ‘1st IFCM Composition Competition for Choral Music’ was held, and the announcement of the next contest seems a good opportunity to assess the impact of the original event. During the aftermath of the first competition, two separate currents of thought percolated to the surface of jury members’ minds: the extraordinary variety of compositional language employed, coupled as this was to a heightened emotional response to the text, perfect fidelity to the words, a calculated means of expression, and keen aural imagination evinced as sheer delight in the choral sound—in some works at least; and the deep-seated flaws in many a piece submitted, choral ‘essays’ that evinced either a total lack of understanding or any first-hand experience of tessitura and vocal range, inhabited a mawkish sound-world, demonstrated an inability to score effectively, proffered some quite maladroit voice-leading, and—surprisingly often—a plethora of harmonic ‘infidelities’ within an avowedly tonal but weak musical structure. One hates to be blunt, but the truth will out."

Yikes! The president of the jury has a theory as to why these submissions were so awful.

"There is no theme to the competition; composers can choose whatever texts they wish, be these in the public domain or not (in the latter case copyright must be cleared of course); up to eight-part writing (from SATB to SSAATTBB) is allowed, and—pertinently—the jury welcomes ‘hand-written scores, submitted in pen or pencil’, which should be scanned and sent as electronic files. The jury hopes to be taken up on this challenge, and that eBay will experience a system collapse when hundreds of keyboards with their midi-software are put up for bid. You get the point. An overreliance on notation programs, coupled with the ability to input music directly at a computer interface, has, we fear, weaned budding composers away from a simple sheet of paper and an HB pencil. Pressing such an implement into the page is an entirely different haptic experience and will result in radically different music. We have nothing against Finale or Sibelius or Score, they are all amazing tools of the trade, but this is what they remain…something to be used after the fact, as soon as a piece has been composed."

I have always been a fan of sketching new works by hand and then using notation software to finish my project, but I didn't think notation software would completely lessen the quality of compositional work. OR, maybe these music notation tools convinced everyone that they too can compose?

N.B. There is no entry fee, and the grand prize is 5000 EUR.


In the meantime…

Yes, I went there.

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