Friday, June 25, 2010

Days 3 & 4

Wednesday and Thursday held many rewarding activities here at Music10. On Wednesday morning we had another round of composer presentations, giving us a change to hear recordings of more of the fascinating music that our participant composers have written. We're listening to everything from orchestral and wind ensemble works, to vocal and choral works, to chamber and solo music. It's nice to hear a variety of works by each composer, giving us a chance to experience the different sides of their personalities.

Later that evening, several of us took a nice walk down to the nearby town of Vevey. We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over the lake, with the mountains in the background. Plus we got to visit the famous giant fork statue which appeared on our promotional posters. (See next post for pictures.)

Thursday afternoon we had a masterclass in which guest composer Stephen Hartke commented on music of some participant composers (including me and my fellow blogger Jennifer Jolley). Dr. Hartke is an insightful, inquisitive listener, and we have all been learning a great deal from him. One of the main topics of discussion was the issue of titles and program notes for our compositions. It's always difficult to attach words to music, so it was nice to wrestle with the topic in the company of experienced colleagues. Dr. Hartke succinctly noted that when speaking or writing about your piece, pretend as though it is a piece by someone else. This can help us detach ourselves from the convoluted, personal associations we sometimes have with the process of composing. He suggested that we try to speak in a concise, nontechnical way as much as possible. Although this might seem obvious, it is advice that is easy to forget - it's always nice to be reminded about the importance of presenting our music well.

We also discussed the issue of harmonic variety in modern music. Dr. Hartke noted that nowadays he sees many student works that are tonal, but do not modulate to different keys. He urged us to think about creative ways to achieve a sense of harmonic contrast, which can help strengthen and delineate the form of the music. The challenge is to use harmony in a way that is fresh and personal, while taking into account the many good examples from music of the past.

Meanwhile, the performers continue to rehearse the new works. We have been very impressed by their enthusiasm, artistry, and hard work. This allows us to treat the rehearsals as workshop sessions, in which composers are actually making adjustments to their music as it is being rehearsed. In particular, having a member of eighth blackbird in each chamber group means that composers get helpful feedback from full-time, world-class performers of new music. Since eighth blackbird regularly performs challenging new works, they have an incredible ability to realize the ideas of composers.

The next post includes several pictures from days 3 and 4. Enjoy!

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