Saturday, April 18, 2009

A New Day - About the Score - Part 1

My symphonic/big band score entitled "A New Day" will be performed May 19, 2009 at LaSells Stewart Center (Oregon State University) in Corvallis, Oregon. Original works by Hu Xiao and Michael Coolen, and music from Mozart, Beethoven, Dauner, and more, are all part of this diverse program. The following is a bit about my piece.

I had about 8 weeks to get all my licks in...I can't recall ever writing a score with this many parts! I went about it pretty much the same way I always do. Fear, shame and doubt are not on my radar at this early stage - those will come later!

The first few weeks of composing were great - I feel like I touched on some spaces I'd like to continue in future works. After about a week of sketching things out in a pretty random manner I had a bunch of different themes and ideas to juggle around and wasn't entirely sure how they would all play out so I attempted to distill it all to single sheet of paper - a "blocking" - just to give me a bird's-eye (pun intended) view of the piece so I could sing, air conduct, plunk through on the piano, and otherwise grunt my way through the conceptual piece. This is a pretty low investment way to compose - no firm commitments yet. My first couple drafts might have been tossed into the trash...no biggie. It's easy to swap things around this way (with pen and paper). "Blocking" is just part of my personal writing process - I suspect other writers do something like this too, perhaps in their own way and probably a lot neater than mine. It's not always pretty but it forces me to define how everything will go, without getting into too many details. What you see is about 13 minutes of planned music - just from the blocking I had a sense that it would run somewhere in that time range. It would also create for me quite a bit of orchestrational and arranging work, but I tried not to worry about that. By blocking it out, I can sort of get a sense of the end state - it's all fluffy and dreamy at this point and creates a lot of tasks that must get done in order to get to that end state. At this point I had about 7 weeks to write and not a single note written. Yet I pretty much knew how it would go.

Fast forward through all the late nights working through all the tasks I'd created for myself in the blocking (cursing that "me" for the luxury of having such an easy gig!), computer crashes, re-writes, editing and pruning, and I finally have the score and parts ready.


The last three weeks of working on the score were pretty intense - lots of little details and even after printing I still have changes I'd like to make - but it's time to let it go now...I have the great honor of being able to conduct the piece too.

A New Day was composed especially for the Corvallis-Oregon State University Symphony Orchestra and the Max Planck Gymnasium Big Band from Germany.

Rehearsals begin April 20 (and my piece is only one of several originals on the program) .The MPG Big Band will come to town May 14 and the performance is May 19, 2009 at LaSells Stewart Center, Oregon State University.

I'll update this post with more...stay tuned...it's a work in progress! Should be a lot of fun!

Rob
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