Tuesday, April 24, 2012

EarShot Home

Day two of the EarShot experience has ended. It was a great day packed with activities. Here is what happened:

In the morning we gathered at Copley Hall for our final meetings with maestro Feddeck where we discussed our errata lists and other issues we wanted addressed in the final reading session. We were all quite nervous, I think, hoping the aspects that did not gel yesterday would come together today.

As we soon found out, however, there was no reason to be nervous. The orchestra sounded even better than yesterday! In today's public reading session the composers spoke briefly about their work before the maestro rehearsed a few spots and performed a full run-through, which was recorded. All of the great qualities of each work I described yesterday were even more pronounced today and we were all very happy with the results. My piece came a long way in just 24 hours thanks to the furious errata work by the SDS librarians and maestro Feddeck's wonderful leadership. All in all, I could not be happier with the performance!

After the readings we met with the mentor composers and maestro Feddeck for an "Aesthetics feedback session" where we discussed overall effectiveness, formal concerns and other compositional issues. Our mentor's comments were right on point and very helpful. For my piece everyone was complimentary and supportive before giving constructive feedback on ways to improve. The mentors and maestro Feddeck articulated specific ways to edit in places I knew something was lacking, but could not quite put my finger myself.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of an informative professional development workshop comprising of a presentation on copyright law by Corey Field, an overview of support systems for composers by New Music USA president Ed Harsh and a crash course in MOLA score and part preparation by principal librarian Courtney Cohen. Finally, the day ended with a panel discussion of issues relevant to young composers by our illustrious mentors.

While the events an sounds of the past two days are still sinking in, I can undoubtably say the this was an amazing experience I will benefit from for my entire compositional career. The greatest lessons in composing for the orchestra are learned in the process of having music performed, especially read by top-notch musicians like those at the SDS. However, one's compositional and orchestration chops are only half the story. How composers present themselves and thief music is just as important and having well prepared, well thought-out scores and instrumental parts is essential for a successful work.

I cannot thank the San Diego Symphony, maestro James Feddeck, our mentor composers and the ACO enough for this invaluable experience. I sincerely hope the EarShot program will continue to grow in the coming years!

Friday, April 20, 2012

EarShot San Diego New Music Readings: Blog 1 - David Kirkland Garner

David Kirkland Garner
I am thrilled to be participating in the EarShot new music readings with the San Diego Symphony along with fellow composers Adam Greene, Paul Frucht and Chi-Hui Jen. As I write, I sit in my hotel room exhausted after a long and exciting day of activities having just finished my errata sheet for tomorrow’s public reading. A quick recap of our day:

The morning began with quick meetings with our distinguished mentor composers Robert Beaser, John Corigliano and Rand Steiger and wonderful maestro James Feddeck to discuss any potential problems with our scores.

Next came the first of two reading sessions lasting 2.5 hours with roughly 30 minutes per piece. Everyone’s first reaction is the same: the orchestra sounds wonderful. The first piece read was Adam Greene’s In Winter in which the orchestra gracefully maneuvered the delicate timbre shifts in his icy landscape. Next, Paul Frucht’s Penumbra is ripe with beautifully orchestrated bright flourishes that sweep throughout the orchestra. After a quick break the orchestra picked up Chen-Hui Jen’s yet the dew remains in pale. Prickly walls of sound emerge and retract in a mist of subtle and intricate gestures. My piece, the Machine, was next. My piece is characterized by repetitive figures that build to a frenzy only to release into another machine texture. At the time I think I was too nervous and excited to use my ears, but throughout the rest of the afternoon the reading sunk in and I was able to make some slight changes and adjustments for tomorrow’s reading. 

After the readings we had an extensive and informative feedback session with the SDS librarian and a group of musician liaisons. The instrumentalists gave specific reactions based on forms filled out by the orchestra after each piece. It was extremely beneficial to be able to sit down with the players right after the readings for a talk. The main theme of the session was clear: less is more. Many of the performers spoke about spots throughout the scores where us composers gave too much information that made performing overly complicated--the cello section mentioned a note with three different subtle directions. It seems, in the world of limited orchestra rehearsal time we composers must be as efficient as possible in every aspect of our piece. After a tour of Copley Hall led by informed San Diego Symphony staff, we met for happy hour around the corner. 

More to come tomorrow!