Thursday, August 25, 2011

Music Video - Thanksgiving Partita

A minimalist viola and cello duet. Writing this, I tried to capture that calm, together feeling we all hope for when family gets together, even if we rarely get it. I was blessed to get the performers I did. Both are regular players with the Utah Symphony.

Of Chants and Strings and Opportunities

I’m feeling very excited, and grateful, today. There have been a lot of composing opportunities that have come my way these last few months. Nothing that will be immediately profitable, I suspect, but I don’t know anyone who wakes up and says, "I’m going to compose music because the money is so good."

In any case, I’ve got several works on my musical plate right now. Currently, I’m trying to finish a string quartet, based on an old chant. I’ve put aside setting D&C 121 to music for now. The SQ has the earlier deadline. There are actually two SQ’s. Barlow Bradford, of the Utah Chamber Artists, has commissioned the Salty Cricket Composers Collective (SC3) to come up with two string quartets based on two different chants for an upcoming concert. SC3 has opened it up as a contest. The two winning submissions will be chosen by Mr. Bradford.

Obviously, I’m hoping to win at least one spot, but if not, that’s okay. I’m really enjoying writing this piece. It’s a tonal/modal work, and I think I’ve got most of the major bugs worked out. I’ve certainly got the major themes and harmonies done. Now, it’s down to editing and finalizing the details: articulations, dynamics, and so on. It’s been a real joy to get back to my “tonal” roots. Studying composition in college was a wonderful experience, but also a strange one. Three years of learning traditional harmony, voice leading, and counterpoint only to be told, “Don’t write that way.” Tonal music was looked down on by my professors. They favored the second Viennese school – Schoenberg, Weber and Berg – over the first. It feels like an almost total disconnect.

I can’t blame them. As much as I love Mozart, I get tired of listening to him all the time. I want variety. My professors approach was to “break me” of the aural habits learned from a lifetime of listening to Beethoven so that I could write what I wanted, in any style. Or at least that’s what they told me. I’ve found that artistic choices at University to be as politicized as the war between Democrats and Republicans.

In any case, after years of writing atonal music, I find myself moving more and more back to the tonal. Recently, I’ve been rediscovering my love of movie soundtracks, minimalism, and 19th century romanticism, especially the work of Chopin. In any case, it’s certainly be a fun trip.