Composer/Performer relationships

Discussion in 'EC Downloading' started by ecarroll, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. ecarroll

    ecarroll Artist in Residence Staff Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    Good morning TMs,

    I'm writing today mostly to those of you that are currently enrolled in a music school.

    How many of you have established a relationship with a composition student and asked him/her to collaborate on a new piece? We can assume that they are every bit as talented in their field as you are in yours, and by actively collaborating you ensure that the final product is something that reflects your particular strengths (lyrical playing? articulation? range?) as well as something that you have a unique relationship to.

    What is more important than developing your own repertoire? The person that you're seated next to in theory class might become Peter Maxwell Davies.

    Any thoughts?

  2. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Forte User

    Oct 11, 2004
    Farnham (a place too smal
    I have done something very similar to what you describe. During the summer vacation I encourage all of my students to write a couple of pieces for me. The first I tend to give them very specific guidelines - I specify the key and the time signature - usually based around what they have been learning during the year - if they have been introduced to the whole tone scale, for example, the piece may be based around that scale. The second piece I give them complately free reign - no restrictions.
    The pieces are often the students first foray into composing (especially the younger ones - my youngest student being 8) and I have found that there is very little relationship between which are the better players and which can come up with great ideas. Once I have these pieces, I then put them onto a music processor and they then have a copy that looks like "proper" music. I also give other students, of a similar standard, copies of the music - the students really seem to enjoy playing each others' pieces - it also makes great sight-reading - you can be absolutely certain that they will never have seen the music before.

    One of my students is quite a good trumpeter and also a good pianist. His first compositions really intrigued me, so last year I asked him to write a piece for my beginner brass ensemble (the requirement for entry is to know which end to blow in!). When the piece came back to me, what I had was a superb ensemble piece - every part was interesting and important - he had asked me about the ranges of each instrument (and part) and the piece was perfect for the group - each part was very playable for the players that would find themselves on them. The group love it and it has become one of their more popular pieces. This has led to the same student writing a bunch of piano pieces and he's currently writing a piece for the windband that he plays in (and I tutor). Not bad for a 15 year old.
    As an ensemble director, having a resource like Sam is great - it saved me purchasing a new piece for the group, as well as saving me from having to use my compositional skills - which are terrible in comparison!

    I have been involved in a number of new pieces for brass ensemble, what I find interesting in the compositional process is how composers approach the various trumpets and mutes. Some come in with a very specific tonal requirement, others leave it all up to the musician. When a composer just writes "mute" it leaves such an open question (well, lets be fair - who here just carries one mute??). Others write parts specificlly for piccolo trumpets (or Eb, G etc), others write parts that appear like those instruments would be best suited for the job, yet leave the choice up to the performer - others write into the heights, yet want it on the big trumpet. When composers get involved with the performers, the instrument and mute choices tend to (in my experience) be both more specific and user-friendly. When they are working with a group regularly, they also tend to write parts for specific players. I know that one of the composers/arrangers that works with Surrey Brass a great deal has started wrtiting parts for specific people - sometimes the parts are named ("Mike" "Steve" "John" etc) rather than numbered Trumpets 1,2,3 etc. It certainly saves discussion about who is best suited for the parts.
  3. mikeblutman

    mikeblutman New Friend

    Jul 17, 2005
    Dear Ed and all TM readers,

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. I think this is often overlooked and understressed in our music schools, colleges and conservatories today.

    An opening point to bring to everyone's attention: Chris Gekker recently released a recording with repertoire entirely by composers whom he met as an undergraduate student at Eastman (David Snow and Eric Ewazen). His artist/composer relationship has spanned more than 20 years now and rarely has a year gone by when he didn't perform works by these two composers.

    As an undergraduate student I frequently performed works by my colleagues (both from my school and from other schools) and collaborated on a piece specifically written for me. I have just completed my first month as a graduate student at a new school and already have 2 collaborative projects planned for the upcoming months and am starting rehearsal on a student-composed brass quintet tomorrow morning.

    To restate a point Ed made in his initial post; how cool is it to have a piece taylor-made to your unique talent? AMAZING opportunity to say the least. Also, please share your most enjoyable and successful collaborative efforts with us on this forum and others like it. Don't keep these new gems to yourself! We need new and exciting solo and chamber works by TODAY'S composers.

    Sorry for the dissertation,
    Mike Blutman
  4. JackD

    JackD Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 30, 2003
    Manchester / London
    One of my friends at college is writing a brass quintet for me. Hopefully I can persuade him to do some solo stuff for me too when he has time (they work the composition guys so hard here!)

    I think it's pretty exciting to be the first person to play any piece of music, and I think you get more involved creatively than you might if you were playing a piece that has been around for hundreds of years and been played by thousands and thousands of people.

    Oh by the way, Peter Maxwell Davies was a composition student here too, back in the day!

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