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Dissertation Update and Some Thoughts on Composition

I was deleting some spam off of my site today and realized that I haven’t posted in a long time, so I thought I’d give an update.

I am currently trying to finish my dissertation at LSU in case anyone reading this didn’t know. I have to have a completed draft to my committee by October 1 – which is in exactly two weeks. The dissertation must be a 20-minute composition and a sizable document. I have also chosen to add electronics, which means I had to create software for the performers. The document and software are mostly finished. I have roughly six minutes of music left. That includes a short movement (4 minutes) and then some room to elaborate what I have barfed out in the last month.

The work has to be for large orchestra. If you have never written for orchestra, it presents a unique set of challenges from both a compositional and performative standpoint. That is mostly what the written document of my dissertation is about.

I write mostly solo and chamber music, so one of the hardest things for me has been to tone down some of the string parts (I resisted the urge to write “dumb down”). Imagine taking 30 random people and have them all step forward while simultaneously touching their nose in exactly the same way. You also can’t use words – only dots and lines on paper to show them how to do it – and they only have 15 minutes to look at your diagram before it happens. It is easy for one person to do it because he can’t really be wrong, but 30 becomes a real challenge.

When writing music, constraints are both creatively irritating and refreshing. They are irritating because you are limited in what you want to do, but refreshing because pulling off what you want while adhering to the constraints is very satisfying. It’s like solving a jigsaw puzzle looking at only the back. Solving a jigsaw puzzle is already refreshing, but adding a constraint like I just mentioned adds a challenge that might be difficult – but never impossible – to overcome. For a great example of an extreme musical constraint, check out the Musica Ricercata by György Ligeti. Ligeti constrains himself to only a single pitch class – the note A. It’s a short piece, but very musically refreshing.

Anyway, I just finished the opening theme for my final movement. It is going to be a Rondo (a theme plays back several times throughout the movement). I’m excited to write it, but I want it to be a fast tempo, so that means more notes. diss3_themeI better get back to writing. Thanks for the break. Hope you all enjoy the post. I’ll try to write more I promise!

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Filed under Dissertation, Music, Music Composition, Uncategorized

British Mass Transit Strikes Again!

Note: I have been severed from the Internet for three days, but chose to post this as is. I wrote it on the train to London on Saturday, August 6, 2011.

So today began my journey to London. I am finally starting to figure out this whole mass transit thing, and happily made my train with plenty of time to spare (although I overslept a bit, which means I never got to try blood sausage, apparently for which Huddersfield is well known). I got off the exit at Wakefield West to board the connecting train to King’s Cross Station in London. The train arrived, and I realized that my seat was Continue reading

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Filed under ICMC 2011, Travel, Uncategorized

Soul Search

Today another student asked me what I was doing at ICMC. I told him that I had a piece in the listening room. He asked me if I was a composer or researcher. I told him that I was predominantly a composer. He then proceeded to ask me, “What differentiates you and your music from all the other composers here.”

That was a great question. Never in my life have I been asked what separates me from the rest of the pack. I was completely flummoxed. I had no answer. What does make my music better or worthwhile?

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