“Composers and musicians from opposite ends of the Willamette will celebrate new connections between two river communities when the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (ECCE) and the Contemporary Portland Orchestra Project (CPOP) join forces for a March Music Moderne concert on March 8 at Portland’s AudioCinema studios.
Organized by ECCE director Andrew Stiefel, OCF members John Goforth and Matt Zavortink, and CPOP composers Jay Derderian, Lisa Lipton and artistic director Justin Ralls, the New Music Co-Op: Inaugural Assembly includes 21 performers and 11 composers and features premiers of new music composed just for this occasion. “
Read all about it here —> Click!
I’m very happy to announce that thanks to Andrew Stiefel‘s amazing grant writing abilities, our project – the upcoming “Inaugural Assembly” concert – has been awarded a Project Grant from New Music USA!
[Note: Location and benificiary of concert has changed, but the essence remains the same.]
Here’s a snippet about my recent electro-acoustic work, [REDACTED] for amplified viola and tape. You can read the article in its entirety here; there’s lots of love for all those amazing works, covering both last fall’s Crazy Jane concert, as well as the recent Blackout concert from the end of January.
“Portland composer Jay Derderian’s austere [REDACTED] for electric viola and tape sounded the most up to date, not least because of its birth during the recent National Security Agency privacy intrusion scandal and its consequently ominous atmosphere, produced by the viola’s raspier timbres and pitch bending. Like others on both programs, its length exceeded its ideas, but the probing music offered a piercing contrast to the surrounding pieces. “
I’m very optimistic that this will be a great year, and so far I’ve been proven right. The Blackout Concert on Friday was a huge success, and we had some of the most enthusiastic turn-out in a while. There were many great performances and a huge variety of works were on the program – everything from abstract tape pieces to quasi-performance art works to highly diatonic love-songs accompanied by dancers, all done in the serine darkness of a church.
For the last couple months I’ve been sketching a large-scale work for mixed septet which has been going well, and once it’s finished I will write an extended entry discussing its logic and philosophy, similar to what I did for my fifth string quartet. Thus far 3 of the projected 5 movements are finished with a 4th well under way and the 5th only existing in my mind, at present.
On March 8th I’ll be presenting a new electro-acoustic composition for amplified solo viola with the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble on a double-billed concert with CPOP, which I’m very excited about. This will be the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work; of writing, coordinating with and working with ECCE/CPOP, editing, searching for venues – all the thrilling aspects of building a multi-city collaboration concert on a major new music festival. I’ll be posting more about this as it comes closer on here as well as on my newly minted Facebook page.
After that’s finished, I’m going to start working towards a goal I’ve been thinking about for a while: releasing a CD. By the end of this year, I’m hoping to release a CD of works for solo piano and solo guitar, which will all be played by yours truly. It’ll likely be an EP of some sort; no more than 4 tracks, but never the less it will be an exciting new venture. Since I’m going to be playing them all myself chances are they’ll be on the simpler side – perhaps a short suite for piano and one or two pieces for guitar, possibly one with pre-recorded sound (“tape”) – but it should be really fun and rewarding challenge.
As of a few weeks ago I am officially on the governing board of Cascadia Composers. I’m really excited to serve this fine organization and be able to contribute to its growth and development. I am actually filling in the remaining part of a term for a member who left the board, so it isn’t necessarily a complete term, but I think this is probably the best scenario as a new member. This abbreviated term will serve as a nice “trial run;” I’ll get to see the inner-workings of an established new music organization and if it works out then I’ll run for a full two-year board position.
In other news I am currently at work on a new commission for Andrew Angell; a local percussionist in Portland. This will be my first extended work for a percussion ensemble, and I’m really excited to see where this goes.
Lastly, I am still at work with Andrew Stiefel and the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (ECCE) in organizing our concert for March Music Moderne 2014. This concert has expanded into a double-bill concert with the Contemporary Portland Orchestra Project (CPOP), and we’ll be bringing TONS of new music to the masses by composers near and far, famous and not-so-famous. I’ll be sure to post more details as things develop.
NPR Posted a very interesting article on American orchestras and their relationship (or lack thereof) with new music.
I was pretty intrigued by it and the author raised a number of interesting points. Namely, that the idea has been passed down in modern composition departments that it’s a futile endeavor to write a large orchestral piece. The argument is mainly from a practical standpoint; orchestras are big, unwieldy beasts, and the costs of rehearsal time and performances almost completely outweigh the opportunity of in-depth exploration for both the orchestra and the composer. It’s unfortunate we’ve arrived at this point, but there it is.
Honestly, I’m of the opinion that as long as orchestras continue to act like museums for the classics, then they’ll stagnate and go by the wayside. One could argue that people pay a ridiculous sum to hear something they specifically want to hear. People are paying good money to hear Beethoven 5 for the billionth time, why should they be bothered by what some unknown composer wants to say?
Well, because we live now, not in 18th century Vienna.
What are we afraid of? Dissonance? Angularity? The Avant-Garde?
Where would we be if all new music was tossed aside simply because people were hostile towards it at the time? Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring caused a literal riot. If the riot were taken at face value, then it probably wouldn’t have become the 20th century masterpiece it’s currently thought of as.
One other issue with orchestral programming and new music is that often there is a clause in the commission contract that gives the premiering ensemble exclusive performance rights for a given time (usually about a year or so). Any newly commissioned work will only be able to live with one ensemble, despite the possibility of listeners getting excited and possibly wanting to perform it themselves (if they’re musicians). This amounts to a virtual shelf life for new music.
Here’s a possibly audacious thought – what if we eliminated those exclusive performance rights and replaced them with a clause that allowed the commissioning ensemble to delegate performances of the new work within their respective players? In other words, if a string quartet commissioned a new work and someone within that ensemble was in another quartet and wanted to play it, why couldn’t they? After all, this performer is part of a larger ensemble that this work was written for, but they are still a part of it as an individual.
I’ve went off on a bit of a tangent there.
The point to all of this is obvious; we shouldn’t fear the new simply because it’s new. Yes, lots of terrible music will be written in our time, and every few hundred or so a real diamond will shine through. But isn’t that part of the fun? I’d like to believe that modern audiences would enjoy the prospect of being part of such an invigorating journey.
They’re witnessing history in real time.
Many new things are starting to happen, but they are all currently in the early conceptual stages. Here’s a brief over-view of some current and potential upcoming projects (all of which I’ll write about in more detail as they come nearer).
For the last couple months (since March 25th, actually) I’ve been working on a new piece for amplified viola and pre-recorded sound (“tape”) with an optional percussion section. This is the second electro-acoustic piece I’ve written, and I’m very excited about it. I’m still getting my feet wet with manipulating samples and field sounds. I still haven’t quite settled on what samples I’ll be using, but I still have plenty of time for that.The element of optional percussion only happened about half-way through the writing process. As I was thinking about the tape parts (three all together), the middle one sort of became something much more accompanimental (is that a word?), rather than an independent texture. As the motives, lines, and shapes began to come into focus, I started hearing percussion instruments. I decided rather than require the live percussion section, to make it optional by making a variant of the live parts within a tape part. Both versions will be slightly different with the idea that there will be incentives for the performer(s) in either version. Also, practicality was part of the decision. Not all ensembles will have a vibraphone, marimba, crotales, and toms at their disposal, so the optional tape part would act as a supplement. Either way, I think this piece will have a lot to offer.
After I’m finished with this, I’ll be starting a short to medium duet for violin and cello. This piece will likely be much more virtuosic and showy as I am writing it for a particularly exceptional violin player in town. He and I have been discussing the possibility of curating a “rock-themed” type concert sometime in February of 2014, and this will definitely affect my thinking as I’m writing it. I began my musical adventures in rock and heavy metal, and I fully intend to import the kind of power-chord infused driving rhythms and wailing guitar-like solos that come with that world. I’m basically going to attempt to make the violin and cello sound like two electric guitars (possibly through the use of amplification and distortion? – we’ll see).
Finally, I plan on exploring an ensemble that seems to be gaining popularity with competitions; a variant of the Pierrot ensemble. In my case it’ll be a septet consisting of flute, clarinet in A, violin, viola, cello, percussion, and piano. With these forces, I plan on exploring something I began with my two books of miniatures for piano (Aphorisms I and II); the miniature. Short-form pieces are a unique compositional challenge. Can you create the sense of arc, tension, release, and closure within the span of a minute, or even a few seconds? I have no idea, but I’m going to find out. I’m planning on having an odd-numbered amount of movements too. The reason being simply because I’ve been finding more and more that I tend to gravitate towards even numbers; even number of movements, sections, rhythms, or whatever. It’s a habit that seems to be working against me, so I’m going to nip it in the bud by writing at least seven movements for this ensemble, possibly more depending on how it goes. Each section will likely be one to three minutes, at most, but possibly even less.
In addition to focusing on odd numbers and miniaturism, I also am going to make a conscious shift away from a melodic-centered type of writing towards a much more gestural/timbre-oriented approach. Again, this is to combat habits I’ve found myself stuck in. I am and will always be a sucker for melody. For me, melody the apotheosis of nearly all the parameters of music contained within a single idea. Harmony, rhythm, register and time are all contained within a strand of notes. For a long time my approach has focused on the melody as being the central idea, the core nugget that contains everything the piece will become. Now I want to expand my thinking. I am going to try and force myself out of my comfort zone and see what becomes of it.