One of the most rewarding feelings I've had from writing this concerto is finishing up on writing all of the notes. Now you might say, "Well, that's ridiculous. The piece isn't finished yet!" And if you did actually say that (I'm hoping one of you did or this would be really awkward...), you'd be right. There's orchestration that has to be done, I have to go through the process of creating every single part, mix and finalize an audio realization, etc. Fellow composers know this process all too well, and it can take hours or days - EVEN DAYS - before I'm completely satisfied with how everything looks and sounds. On top of this, there's a little bit of extra work that has to be done with the piano reduction I've also created.
The good news is that everything is actually finished and I made my deadline! The score and parts are cleaned up, there's a decent MIDI audio file for Matt Gibson so he has an idea of what the piece sounds like, and all of the files have been sent to him! The bad news is that much of the process I wanted to show here isn't possible because, well, everything's already finished. On top of finishing all three of my summer commissions and preparing for grad school, I've had to crunch some time in cleaning up the files for the concerto. I'll show as much as I can, but this will be a little more text-heavy than picture-heavy, so the TL;DR version is:
The third movement's a sea shanty, the fourth movement's a wild and crazy night in the city, and part extractions are only fun with reliable software, reliable computers, a good playlist, and maybe alcohol.*
*The composer does not endorse young composers under the age of 21 to drink alcohol when doing part extractions. Or other activities. Or anything at all.
As I've continued to compose this new concerto over the summer, part of me has felt incredibly grateful for the fantastic collaboration I've had with Matt Gibson (the bassist who commissioned the piece). A good collaboration is incredibly essential to the writing process, especially when it comes to writing a new concerto. For this experience, my collaboration has only been with the performer (the sole commissioner), but more often than not, composers will also interact with the conductor of the new piece too since they are also vital to this process. Matt has been very open to try out some of the ideas I've had for the piece, and while some of them haven't worked, they've ultimately contributed to the learning process I've discovered in writing a double bass concerto. I've learned much more about this instrument than I previously knew before, and much of that has come from my collaboration with Matt.
I've moved! To New York City!! My Master's program at the Steinhardt School in NYU takes off beginning this fall, and so I've relocated to the big city for the second half of this summer to get ready. While it was tough having to leave Michigan (and quite a lot of my family and friends behind), I'm excited for the coming months ahead.
This new journey I'm taking reminds me a lot of the themes and ideas I'm exploring in this double bass concerto. I think the main reason for that is I've never really lived in the big city all of my life. Sure, Michigan has a strong metropolitan center and surrounding city areas, but having seen more of New York City now (and you definitely know this if you've been here before), it's vastly different when comparing the two states. This strongly relates to the feelings of travelling the American countryside, exploring all of its different landscapes, and seeing the characteristics of each place all come together that the concerto will be talking about.
Last time, I briefly mentioned that the Concerto for Double Bass and Chamber Ensemble I'm writing this summer will be program music, or music telling a story/describing something preexisting/etc., within 4 - 5 movements (read more about those specific details here, if you're just joining in). Part of the challenge of creating program music isn't finding material to write about - there is so much out there in the world that's really fascinating, whether it's an historical event, stories, people, paintings, etc. Creating new program music raises several questions that must be solved during the writing process: What makes the inspiration for the new piece... well, inspiring? What is it about this inspiration that makes it so compelling to write music about? And, are these characteristics enough to justify the creation of a new piece of music expressing what there is to know about this inspiration?
This is the start of what will be a blog series dedicated to writing about the conceptualization of a new Concerto for Double Bass and Chamber Ensemble. This new work was commissioned by Matthew Gibson, a DMA performance major at Michigan State University. I've already begun work writing the piece this summer, and its premiere is scheduled to occur sometime next academic year (or the 2017-2018 season). There will also be a piano reduction created with the concerto in the future.
While I've had some experience writing for double bass (certainly for band and orchestra), this is the first opportunity I've been given to feature the bass as a true soloist. With every new piece, there are always a number of questions to be answered that open up new (and hopefully different) paths to explore. With that in mind, the first part of my process for this new concerto has involved discovering these thoughts and ideas.
Because I currently don't have any interesting pictures right now in relation to this topic, enjoy some more pictures of my cats. They are beautiful creatures.