artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
...just not posting much.

This week I have been mostly writing a Magnificat, which I've sent off for a competition entry; and messing about with a draft of a piece from a few months ago. Think I nearly have the layout sorted now; it's in 12 parts, and the piano reduction was a bit monstrous to piece together.

Last week I was putting the final touches on a setting of a poem by one of my patrons, commissioned by his wife for an important birthday. He seems pleased with it, and I'll go and see them both for a picnic tomorrow.

Today I was with London Gallery Quire for the first of two recording days for our new CD. It was enjoyable, the Quire is an amateur group and the CD is not going to be perfect. I felt we could have done a bit more, but also that there is wisdom in quitting while you are singing well and feeling good; I think definitely stopped at a good time.

Monday I'm on my way back to Aberdeen, with a supervision on Tuesday. I have not actually done the "short fast madrigal" my supervisor suggested I write. I have also not yet composed something to put on Patreon this month, and there isn't much of the month left to do it in, though I have an idea of what I'll do.

Extant commissions:
St Andrew's Cathedral
Wordless Lullabye

Forthcoming competitions:
Busan (probably can't be arsed) 31/5
Vox 04/06 (could use Sara Teasdale one for this, I think, if I can't write something in time, which I probably can't.)
Melodia (application, I don't have to write something unless commissioned) 15/6
Wilmslow (if I can get near an organ to try some things out? Not desperately fussed about this one to be honest) 31/7
Hendrix 01/8 (finding a text is going to be the hard bit)
Claremont 01/9
Laudem 15/9 (They've specified a text but their instructions aren't clear; I need to ask about it)
Polyphonos (application I think?) 15/9

Calls for Scores:
Pacific Edge 01/8
Juice Vocal Ensemble 16/10

PhD-related:
short fast madrigal
there is a spirit
start thinking about Mass setting stuff
finish 'O Nata Lux'

Stuff on the general composing to-do list/back-burner:
Pigeons (I didn't get the Boston commission)
Gemma's poetry
Turn under plow
When on life's path (Adrian)
I always tried to write about the light
Dear Sir (maybe for Uncommon Music festival if they have it again)
Docbrush Ubi Caritas
Recognition
SOMETHING for Choirs Against Racism. It's a matter of finding the right (public domain) text.
Down by the Whitening Birches
Wisdom hymn tune
The Just's Umbrella (subject to permission from author)
Nunc to match the Mag I submitted last night? But I may need to let the Mag sit for a while and do some revision.

worklog

Mar. 24th, 2017 02:05 pm
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
This morning: Juice vocal ensemble workshopped my setting of O nata lux. It went well; I have a few minor changes to make based on the feedback: slightly faster tempo indication, two bars made slightly shorter, see if I can get the pitches sorted out better on the last page. Maybe an open 5th at the end.

Then I had a meeting with 2 of the other composers on the Beethoven project with me. That went...reasonably, but we need more information to proceed.

One of them has an upper-voices choir and asked if they could perform O nata lux, so that's pretty neat.
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
Wot it syas in the title, basically. But the supervision was okay, even if I felt a bit under-prepared; and the tutorial was excellent: a good balance of encouraging and stretching, with some recommendations for my composing and for my listening. I've written up the supervision and the tutorial for my reference.

The concert was also good: Juice vocal ensemble doing their stuff excellently despite malfunctioning lights and heating (actually rather appropriate for the spookiness of the programme they were singing). I particularly enjoyed Philip Cooke's premiere... perhaps because in a programme that used what I would think of as non-standard techniques in almost every piece, something a little more normal was welcome.

In the interval a cathedral organist was talking to my someone else and asked about an unaccompanied Nunc dimittis suitable for Compline, which the someone else hadn't written; so I piped up and said he could have mine if he likes. I sent the e-mail when people were leaving the concert, then went along to the pub. I hope I didn't appear too keen, but... it's a risk, I guess.

On the way home from the pub I was caught up to by another PhD student who studies remotely, and who is staying in the same place as me. Lovely stuff, and good not to walk on my own. And we'll breakfast together with a third person, who I also met (earlier in the day) and who is staying here... good. I mean, I'm also perfectly happy to breakfast alone, but part of the point of being here is networking, and I may be better at this over breakfast than in a noisy crowded pub anyway.
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
First supervision since *mumble mumble*

Notes:

In general:
I feel as if I haven't done much in the last couple of months. Supervisor thinks I've been pretty prolific. This is reassuring in some ways, but also makes me wonder what would happen if I were able to work more consistently.

I now have a second supervisor! I'll probably see him once per term, once he is back from sabbatical. He likes polyphony and is more of a musicologist than Supervisor 1, so will probably be helpful on the analysis front.

On listening, reading and writing:
I do still need to get into the habit of actually listening to music. And I do still need to do more writing, more analysis. But what I'm doing now -- the worklogs, the reading of various columns and blogs -- is a good start. "The Rest is Noise" is a good thing for me to be reading to get into the material, but the other two books will have what I really, really need to know solidly. The abecedarium, whether for arrangements or as an exercise in composing from scratch, is a really good idea, but keep the pieces short, and remember arrangements can't go in the PhD portfolio.

In a viva I will need to be able to answer:
1) How are you making an original contribution to the repertoire?
2) Where do you place yourself/categorise yourself within the music being written [in your tradition/in the Western academic canon]?

For both of these I'll need to do lots of analysis of my own work. It isn't enough to say that I like harmonic instability, changes of metre, word-painting and cross relations; it isn't enough to say that I give the text primacy; I need to look for patterns in this. Where do I use word-painting and where do I not? What drives the changes of metre?

Things I need to do next year:
-present a few pieces to the Composers' Forum
-present to the Research Forum
-eventually, decide what my Big Piece is going to be. (There has to be a Big Piece, I can't just have 235872987 little ones.) I have lots of ideas.


On various pieces:
cut for length )

This leaves my to-do list looking something like:
This week:
-Ash Weds service this evening, probably a chat about commission text
-Sweeney Todd rehearsal sit-in if I am up to it (I really ought to)
-Pack to go back to London
-Train back to London
-Finish O nata lux by Friday and send it to Juice
-Sort out underlay, midi robots for Art House, put online properly
-postcards for patrons
-business cards (really would be good to have some before Friday, but that seems unlikely)
-start thinking about texts for competitons MASNAU, MALTA and ORTUS
-post-trip laundry and decompression
-ULCC rehearsal
-Hymnathon at St Michael's

Next week:
-ULCC at Southwark Cathedral
-Polyphony Down the Pub
-Gemma
-fix Winter Stars and send that entry off
-start writing MANAU, MALTA or ORTUS; or, preferably, all three
-fix Reminiscences (this is the first one to fix because if it's going to be a test piece *this year* people need copies soon).
-fix Round me Falls the Night so I can order a recording and put it in the "waiting to publish" box
-reading
-listening
-start a list of names for the abecedarium

Plus, you know, all the routine bits, and the non-composing stuff. Oof.

Must dash.

worklog

Feb. 27th, 2017 09:38 pm
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
Managed some composing today. I decided to try writing in Latin and see if that distracted the anxiety quirrels enough to let me get on with things, and it did. Good! Not really enough, though.

I was going to go to the Composers' Forum and learn about writing for bassoon. I arrived late enough that going in would have been disruptive for others and embarrassing for me. I went to the loo, and came back.

Tomorrow:
09.00-14.30: PGR Induction, continued. This includes a session on "Tools for Resilience" but does not appear to include a session in which we get to eat lunch, which is making me wonder whether they have entirely thought this through. (14.30-17.00 is online ethics stuff but I am going to do that another time.)

15.00: Supervision

19:00-21:00: Pancakes and Silent Auction at the cathedral

Also: Date Night, and my father's birthday.

So, while I've been trying to get my sleep habits a bit more sorted out, I think tonight may be rather a late one.

Stuff I would like to finish before the supervision:
-Juice piece (half a draft done)
-Uncommon Music piece (one full draft done but it needs a piano part, so, this is difficult
-brief notes on what I've actually been doing since last supervision in *mumble mumble* -- this isn't so hard, but I do need to write it down.

I might be able to get away with the "what I've been up to" notes being something that I jot down during the induction stuff, but the actual composing needs to be on the computer before then. Whee!

And then, of course, it's the end of the month and I'll need to put something on Patreon if I'm going to get paid. So, tomorrow might be a late night too.

Onward.
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
Today was the first of two "Postgraduate Research Induction" sessions at the University of Aberdeen.

The morning included a lot of talking from the Dean of Graduate Studies, and some talking from a number of others -- the library services, careers services, and so on.

There was a "networking bingo" game which is a sort of specially-designed hell for introverts where we had to talk to people to find out if they had attributes printed in the squares. It was, in fairness, a lot better than just being encouraged to talk to people without that kind of structure, but there wasn't really enough time to get to know anyone properly and also fill in the sheet.

There was nothing at all on how to do a research PhD that's actually a portfolio of your own artistic work and an accompanying dissertation, nor did I meet anyone else who's doing that. So I feel like I used 4 hours of concentration for something that was actually pretty low-value for me. But at least I'm writing about my work more, now, and reading other people's thoughts about contemporary music, and even doing some listening (not much yet, but give it time).

I ran some errands and had some lunch, then came back and listened to Kyle Randall's New Gothic Mass, which I wasn't desperately impressed by, though I'll listen again when I'm less tired.

And I've transferred over my bulletjournal, finally, not having managed to get around to it last night after all.
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
So I've been mostly looking at musical transformations/reformations and accessibility, at ideas around what is "accessible" in church music and how this has affected a) various movements/styles in the past and b) contemporary sacred choral music.

more on accessibility )

This is still a really interesting area, which I feel is important, and it would make a good topic for me: much of my own music attempts to straddle a line between accessibility (either to singers or listeners) and other factors, and I am definitely interested in exploring that more, both through my composing and in terms of actually writing about it. I might need to cut it down somewhat, perhaps limit it to psalmody for example. And I think I have an external constraint of "choral" rather than "congregational" music, so there's that to consider. But it's sortof a huge topic as it is, so those constraints are good. I'm not sure where I would start with exploring how other contemporary sacred choral composers have engaged with accessibility, and I would run the risk of going on a diatribe about the Western academic canon and its sometime disdain or disregard for what it views as popular or common audiences. That may not be the best path for me to take.

But I'm also interested in the place of lament in sacred choral music. This morning I wrote some (rather religious) tweets about not knowing the answers, feeling frightened, feeling wounded, maimed and broken; I think in our society, we are often told that it is not okay to be weak or hurt or to bear wounds. And I think churches have been complicit in that, sometimes; but that they can also be places where lament is safe, where we can cry and wail and yell. And sometimes the function of choral music is to enable us to do that, before all we hold sacred or know to be holy, when words or silence or hitting a pillow just won't cut it.

Also, I write a lot of "sad" music, or music that contains at least an element of lament. This is partly because I find it therapeutic to do so. In light of the "keep your chin up" surrounding culture, perhaps an exploration of how the church can and should, through music, be a place of grief, lament, remorse even, would be more helpful than yet another person talking about what is and isn't accessible.

The two are not entirely unrelated, because one of the problems with selecting music that allows or even invites lament is that the person selecting it will be told they are making the church "sound too depressing" and that "nobody wants to be sad all the time". In my estimation, such complaints are usually more about the comfort of the complainer than the potential new listener... No, nobody wants to be sad all the time; but avoiding it all together is not healthy. I wrote a sermon along these lines at one point.

In this case, my writing would be around how other contemporary sacred choral composers have engaged with lament, how the Western academic canon composers have engaged with lament, and how my own composing does this.
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
Well, I was supposed to be doing some composing today. Instead I saw that someone I sortof know who has 150k Twitter followers and writes for a national magazine has set up a Patreon account and in less than 24 hours attracted over 200 pledges, to the tune of $1700/month. And I felt bad, and inadequate, and a bit jealous, if I'm honest, especially since she gets paid for a lot of her writing work already. There is a lot of advice out there for people starting out on Patreon, much more than there was when I started nearly 3 years ago, but a lot of it simply isn't suitable for what I'm doing; it assumes an end product more engaging than a piece of sheet music. And the quickest way to get a sustainable income there is to already have fans.

So I spent some time reminding myself to keep my eyes on my own work, and reminding myself that just because my work is much more niche and not as instantly relateable and not so popular does not mean that it is worth less or is in any way less important.

My work is important. My music has broader value to society. If I didn't believe these things I wouldn't do it.

But keeping my eyes on my own work only goes so far; just because I'm not famous-on-the-internet and I don't have 150k followers anywhere and what I create is rather niche, doesn't mean there is nothing I can do.

Things I can do:

  • load up Hootsuite with a bunch of auto-tweets/FB posts again so that people actually know about my Patreon and my music, and keep doing it

  • collaborate with others more -- poets, other musicians, artists

  • get my website in slightly better order (this is a work in progress)

  • get my business cards finished and printed, and always carry some, and don't be afraid to give them out when I meet people in person

  • put more of my work on Lulu so that if people do want to buy printed copies, they can

  • make more recordings/get more recordings made so that people hear my work more (and look into ways of doing this other than giving all my money to Choral Tracks, though I intend to keep using that for some work)

  • take more pictures -- seriously, it's worth a try, partly because Instagram is apparently v good if you post regularly, partly because people relate better to pictures, partly because it helps tell a story of my work


I actually have plans to do most of this stuff, so it's not as if I'm sitting around in a cave, writing music and then wondering why nobody has ever heard of me. The thing is, actually doing all of this takes time and energy, and finding a balance where it doesn't take time and energy away from composing is the trick of it. It's winter, and last year was tough for me in many ways and I'm still recovering from that, which combined mean I could spend the entirety of my time on the admin and still be flailing. And maybe the important thing about the PhD work, for now, is that it gives me an obvious focus for the composing itself, a reason to do that before falling down the rabbit-hole of trying to fine-tune socmed or whatever to maximise my income.

And now I have to go to LGQ rehearsal, so that's the afternoon gone, and I've not composed a single naked note OR done any academic reading/listening and I haven't made it to Evensong. Tomorrow is a stay-at-home-and-do-admin day, but I think in the circumstances I can use some of it for composing too.

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