the iron composer CHALLENGE

So I'm back after a wonderful weekend in almost-Cleveland participating in the 2013 Iron Composer Competition. I'd like to count this as a road trip, but I didn't travel that far (only two hours north on the 71) and I didn't have time to try Spudnut donuts or Bucci's (dang it Bucci's, why were you closed at lunchtime?!), but I was far enough away to realize the Redlegs were not on television. (I wonder how Drew Stubbs is working out for The Tribe.)

The event was mostly a blur, so I'll do my best to summarize the long weekend.

I noticed that the event was publicized extraordinarily well.

And on Thursday, all of us (Can, Jakub, Chris, and David) were asked to participate in a Finalist Forum where we presented our music to young impressionable minds.

I'm so thankful we did this: I didn't have time to stalk the other composers online, and frankly I would rather meet the composers in person first and then hear what they have to say about their music.

The next morning we were brought into Gamble Auditorium and were told what instrumentation we were writing for. Surprise, we were all going to write for brass trio which included a…double bell trumpet.


Joe Drew, one of the directors of Analog Arts (and the Iron Composer competition) asked us if we were ready for our secret ingredient. Er, I thought that was our secret ingredient.

The secret ingredient was…audience participation. I drew card #5, which was foot tapping.

I had no idea that "audience participation" would be the secret ingredient. I didn't know how I would control the audience. I didn't know how I could make foot tapping interesting while trying to control said audience. I didn't know if said foot-tapping would be heard in that theater since I saw inklings of carpeting. I freaked out. And, in fact, I probably froze for the next hour. So, I went with my first instinct because I had to. I knew The Meters had a tune called "Hand Clapping Song," and even though I did not have to make the audience clap their hands, I could make them tap their feet.

While we composers were waiting to have our scores tallied, one of the audience members asked us if we learned anything about our composer selves during this comp comp. I certainly have.

After writing the piece, I realized I had absolutely no time to think about my concept, and that threw me. In fact, this is how my compositional style has changed over the past few years: before I would sit down and instantly scribble some notes on blank staves; now I spend great amounts of time thinking about why I compose a particular piece of music, whom I'm composing it for, and what I need to say. Thinking in this way has made me a stronger person and a better composer, and now I'm able to fathom why I write music. I write music because I express myself perfectly through this beautiful abstract medium—and I exist wonderfully in this way.

So, I created a little ditty. It's not the most articulate or deeply philosophical piece I've written. And I admit I'm slightly disappointed that I couldn't produce anything better. But I wrote a fun tune. And the audience liked it, so I didn't go home empty-handed.

I placed the Audience Favorite award (clock) on my desk. I need to clean my desk…

I want to say to all my new composer friends that I'm honored I participated in this competition with you guys and it was fun getting to know you all. And congrats to Jakub!

Now that the competition is over, I will now focus my competitive energies on my fantasy baseball team. (Come on Asdrubal Cabrera, my other shortstop has been sucking.)

Also: Cleveland.

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