Welcome to my blog

I have created this site in order to provide performers, listeners and composers with a description of a composer's experiences with the creative process. The posts will provide discussions of the inspirations, challenges, and successes of a composer from the inception of the piece to the culmination in performance. I will provide a link to where you can see and hear the works in progress. Comments and questions are always welcomed. They will not posted unless you grant me permission.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Partnering with Performers

As artists, most of us are aware of the delicate balance that exists between being true to one’s art and meeting the desires of our audiences. However, these two philosophies need not be in opposition to each other. I feel that is important for all of us to create ways to unite these goals as the perpetuation of quality music depends upon it.

Being a composer, I often envision myself being in the middle of the traditional composer-performer-audience paradigm, instead of at the beginning. I am always looking for ways of how I can meet the needs of performers to help them communicate with and excite their audiences. As a result, I choose to invest all my profits from the sale and performance of my music and recordings into various programs I have designed to help the performer reach out to their audience with both new music and custom arrangements.

I invite all performers to visit my website at http://www.cooppress.net to look at our grant programs and free offerings as an example of some of these possibilities. Our programs assist performers with commissioning, recording, custom arrangements, and fundraising for non-profit organizations and schools. We would love to hear your ideas for anything else you think we could do.

I also encourage other composers to consider partnering with performers to help them reach their audiences and I hope that all performers will examine how working closely with a composer can benefit both their own musical development and that of their audiences. There is nothing more stimulating to an audience than hearing a piece of music for the first time and having the composer present to share insights into the creative process. In my opinion, it should a part of every program presented.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Art of Composition

I wrote this article for my Co-op Press Newsletter and thought I'd reproduce it here for those of you who do not receive the newsletter.

Dr. B

I have recently finished taking a course on North American Native American Art through the Yavapai College Osher Life-long Learning Institute where our teacher, John Acker, shared a definition of art as “combining what has come before into something new”. Immediately, I started to apply this definition to music and recalled a discussion that occurred on the Orchestra List News Group where it was pointed out that at many colleges and universities, potential composition students are not accepted because they believe in melody and tonality. It seems as though, beginning with the mid-twentieth century and continuing in our academic environments, newness is revered over sound artistic practices. As a result, anything that is rooted in music of the past is often rejected.

To illustrate this, I’d like to summarize two articles that appeared in the Music Educators Journal during the 1980s. In his article, “From Sound To Silence: The Classical Tradition and the Avant-Garde”, Robert Ehle states that there are two underlying basis of Western classical tradition; symbolic nature (program music, nationalism, etc.) and conscious craftsmanship. He later states that the downfall of the Western classical tradition is that the quest for new ideas without old associations has led to the abandonment of music as sound and the emphasis on music as pure idea. Roland Nadeau, in his article “The Crisis of Tonality: What is the Avant-Garde?”, illustrates Ehle’s points by pointing out that Schoenberg eliminated tonality, Bruitism (composition with noise) eliminated pitch, melody & harmony, electronic music eliminated traditional instruments and their players, Aleotoric music eliminated traditional form, and Cage eliminated composed sounds with 4’33”. Is the next step the elimination of the audience itself and is that already happening?

The discussion on the Orchestra List News Group illustrated that there are many composers writing music today who have not abandoned the traditions of music in order to create new and vibrant compositions. I highly recommend that every musician and music appreciator read Jon Winsor’s book “Breaking The Sound Barrier: An Argument for Mainstream Literary Music”. He gives credence to the definition of art that I heard in my art class and points the way towards a future of music composition that can create refreshing music without abandoning what has come before us. If you have a bias against all new music, please seek out these composers and give them a try. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Odds and Ends

There are times when a composer does a lot of other things other than compose and this is one of those times. Since completing "Arizona Centennial Overture", one of the things I have been doing is transcribing some of my brass quintet and trio arrangements for woodwind quintet and trio. I feel there is a call for this repertoire and for the most part, these works adapt fairly easily. I also have been taking a transcription I made of Dvorak's five-movement Serenade for Strings for tuba/euphonium ensemble and converting it for brass quintet and then eventually woodwind quintet. This project is more difficult because I originally condensed the ranges to fit the tuba/euphonium ensemble and now I need to expand them.

Another project I am working on is adapting some of the duet compositions and arrangements I made for oboe and tuba, so that my wife and I have something to play together, so they can be played by any instrument. This has been a challenge because it is difficult to fit all the various ranges with one version. I am still working on how to do this without changing the sound of what I originally conceived. It is a work in progress and I'll let you know how I solve the problem if and when I do.

I find that my arrangements sell better than my compositions and it is through those sales that I am able to support the other projects my publishing and recording companies are involved in. I enjoy arranging and it is often a mental break from composing because I need to hold less in my head during the process.

I am still tidying up and adding things to my revised website. About two months ago, I moved by site to hostbaby which is connected to cdbaby and is designed with musicians in mind. Through this site, I am able to send html emails to my mailing list which contains over 500 names an easily target the subscribers by their areas of interest. I also get to list my CDs at cdbaby for free so it has turned out to be a real bargain as well as a convenience. If you haven't visited my website to see my creative marketing ideas, go to  http://www.cooppress.net

As you can see, a composer often spends much time doing things other than composing. One must be creative in finding ways to distinguish themselves and must also be aggressive in marketing. I strongly urge all musicians to purchase and read David Cutler's book "The Savvy Musician". This book has been the driving force behind my recent efforts in marketing my compositions and arrangements.

Please let me know if any of these ideas are useful to you.

Dr. B