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Thread: adivce to young composer

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    Default adivce to young composer

    Dear friends,

    I wrote an article for another classical music site...hope it's not in bad taste to point towards it here....

    Advice to a young composer


    http://www.brightcecilia.com/forum/s...ead.php?t=2328

    "The path of the composer to professional status is not singular. Everyone has their own story. There are several general ideas that I would like to share from my own experience, and that of talking with other composers, or reading about their careers."

    Let me know what you think!

    Scott

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    Some really good general advices, but as former wannabe-composer I would expect something a little bit diffrent from someone with experience. I would say that article is too broad. Things you write about are rather logical, but not too concrete. If it was ment to be general, encouraging article for beginning composers it's okay, but I think that there are much more important and less obvious things to tell them.

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    Well, as it is on a forum, it is meant to start discussion.

    What would you care for me to elaborate on? (I need you to be more specific now!)

    What do you think is less obvious and more important?

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    Article focused on one perticular aspect could make much more good. IMHO. How to get professionally involved, what kinds of formal education are most helpful in finding a job, how to choose a good university, how to manage first steps in professional career... stuff like that. These are some difficult fields in which newbies really could use come help from experienced ones.

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    I agree that the article is very broad and provides background information which is useful, but nevertheless should be common sense.

    If you have the knowledge to share, I think the article needs a little less what, and a bit more how. Both for beginning composers, and the slightly more advanced, but not much more exposed, the most essential questions are ones of:

    How can I get my compositions published, or who can publish them if I approach them and I'm good enough?

    How can I get an orchestra to consider playing a composition?

    Where can I find composition competitions that are appropriate to my age/location etc.?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    Article focused on one perticular aspect could make much more good. IMHO. How to get professionally involved, what kinds of formal education are most helpful in finding a job, how to choose a good university, how to manage first steps in professional career... stuff like that. These are some difficult fields in which newbies really could use come help from experienced ones.
    Ok. I see the criticism. But I was open at the beginning saying it was general ideas.

    Some of these issues are specific to geography, or direction for composing.

    But. let me elaborate a bit on these points. (although i think i did in my article, even if vague - i'm not here to hold someones hand)

    1. How to get professionally involved

    The biggest barrier to a composer is trust. Therefor, one must build a reputation as a trustworthy composer - this will lead to commissions, which is from my experience and where I live, the best way to earn money as a composer in the early years.

    So, if you go to a concert and you really enjoy what you heard, perhaps it would be an idea to contact the players after and tell them how much you enjoyed the concert (flattery does go far! just be honest). Have some concepts for new pieces in mind that are tailored to the ensemble. Be prepared to write some music for free, but still do a great job, and build your portfolio and trustworthiness.

    Sometimes, a successful free composition leads to a great commission.

    2.what kinds of formal education are most helpful in finding a job

    my article was intended more for those who have finished their education. but, a couple of issues with this should be noted.

    especially for graduate school, try to find one in a community you could see merging into. an active metropolitan centre with thriving activity. this time can be great to become known.

    go to schools with a solid performing program so you can meet the next generation of pros.

    3. how to manage first steps in professional career

    this is very individual. i think though, that my article is all about this. first steps: be a performer (far more opportunities), build community (form an ensemble, make recordings, attend festivals, put on concerts), keep learning and growing as an artist. experiment.

    other things like joining associations can be helpful. build a web presence. enter competitions etc etc.

    better?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    I agree that the article is very broad and provides background information which is useful, but nevertheless should be common sense.
    Perhaps it is common sense, but, I wasn't just going for information, but emotion. I think you would be surprised at how lost some people feel. It is very intimidating (just look how people speak of living composers...and always being told you are inferior to all of the "great" music) So, I am hoping to be inspiring more than anything else.

    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    If you have the knowledge to share, I think the article needs a little less what, and a bit more how.
    Point taken. But again, "how" is very individual.

    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    How can I get my compositions published, or who can publish them if I approach them and I'm good enough?
    Publishing hasn't been a factor for me - I'm not published! But, I am still able to make my living as a composer through commissions, teaching, and curating .

    Honestly, I am just about to start this process. As I am "in the community" at large, I have made several contacts with publishers who show interest. But, I'm waiting till my portfolio is deserving. And depending on how my next premiere goes (next week!), I might just be knocking on some doors. I will present them my best stuff, beautifully prepared, with great recordings, and see what happens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    How can I get an orchestra to consider playing a composition?
    I think I did address this, in an off way. First, you must be very good at composing orchestral music! There are piles of orchestral compositions sitting around - why choose yours? You will simply need to stand out. You need to know how every instrument works, and how they work together. Not many have this skill, to be honest.

    So, start within.

    Then - typical routes - competitions - contacts etc. I once put an orchestra together to play a piece of mine - hours of phone calls and lots of favors - but it was totally worth it, and led to more work. But this is a very hard field to conquer. And I'm not sure it is for every composer. I have been driven from the beginning to write for orchestra, and I love the romantic tradition, so, it was a natural fit.

    (Btw, never, ever submit a midi recording to a professional group. First impressions are important - wait till you have something worthy to show)

    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    Where can I find composition competitions that are appropriate to my age/location etc.?
    Google! A couple of hours and you will find plenty.

    Or, this is a great site - costs money, but I think worth it:

    http://www.compositiontoday.com/

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    Edit. You just answered what I was going to say

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    Thanks for posting this link, Scott--I didn't even know about BrightCecilia.

    I found your article very helpful, and in fact the part about "being a performer" prompted me to resume my piano lessons, which I had temporarily paused for financial reasons.

    The advice about competing is also helpful, and thanks for posting the Composition Today link.

    Question: you mention that your article is geared toward people who have completed their education. Do you mean to imply that those who have not attended formal music schools have less of a chance at being professional composers? What are your thoughts on this?

    Also: please keep us posted on the outcome of your premiere next week!

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    Quote Originally Posted by chillowack View Post
    Thanks for posting this link, Scott--I didn't even know about BrightCecilia.

    I found your article very helpful, and in fact the part about "being a performer" prompted me to resume my piano lessons, which I had temporarily paused for financial reasons.
    Of all the advice, this is one I hold very dear. Don't get me wrong - lots of composers have done well without being a performer...but I think it is much harder...and honestly to me a bit strange.

    I have met many composers who later in life regret giving up their instruments.

    Quote Originally Posted by chillowack View Post
    Question: you mention that your article is geared toward people who have completed their education. Do you mean to imply that those who have not attended formal music schools have less of a chance at being professional composers? What are your thoughts on this?
    Well, one of the most successful and brilliant Canadian composers of my generation did not have a formal University education (Chris Harman).

    But let me tell you, he sure did study music!

    I think that formal education can both help and hurt, so, each to their own. I loved my time in school, and feel I gained much from going, but that's me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chillowack View Post
    Thanks for posting this link, Scott--I didn't even know about BrightCecilia.

    I found your article very helpful, and in fact the part about "being a performer" prompted me to resume my piano lessons, which I had temporarily paused for financial reasons.

    The advice about competing is also helpful, and thanks for posting the Composition Today link.

    Question: you mention that your article is geared toward people who have completed their education. Do you mean to imply that those who have not attended formal music schools have less of a chance at being professional composers? What are your thoughts on this?

    Also: please keep us posted on the outcome of your premiere next week!
    Although I'm not in the same position, I'd just like to add something to the position of composers who haven't had formal education.

    First of all, I'm half-way in that position, as I am a university student currently, but I am studying English Language and Literature. Nonetheless, one of the most important things to do is to get as much experience in all areas of music as possible. I went to a masterclass taught by Peter Stark (a British conductor who's been on TV), and I asked him about my situation and he said that coming from a different educational background (i.e. not music) can certainly be worked to your advantage.

    Nevertheless, I would similarly stress that - whether it's formal or informal/personal - you'll still need to study music immensely! For starters, the internet is a wonderful resource for things like this. For example, I'd highly recommend reading things such as Ebenezer Prout's series of books on composition and the orchestra, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov's and Berlioz's treatises on orchestration - all of which can easily be obtained for free on the web.

    Of course, there are many, many books that teach composition, but, in my humble experience, while books that 'teach composition' in a theoretical manner are valuable resources, there is no better way to learn than reading as many actual orchestral scores as possible and asking yourself questions about them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    I'd highly recommend reading things such as Ebenezer Prout's series of books on composition and the orchestra, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov's and Berlioz's treatises on orchestration - all of which can easily be obtained for free on the web.
    I'd like to add Samuel Adler's orchestration text as well to this list - it also comes with an extensive CD set, so, you can hear every example!

    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    Of course, there are many, many books that teach composition, but, in my humble experience, while books that 'teach composition' in a theoretical manner are valuable resources, there is no better way to learn than reading as many actual orchestral scores as possible and asking yourself questions about them.
    For sure. Great point.

    Often when I'm asked who my teachers were, I like to say Bach, Palestrina, Chopin, Schoenberg etc etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    I'd highly recommend reading things such as Ebenezer Prout's series of books on composition and the orchestra, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov's and Berlioz's treatises on orchestration - all of which can easily be obtained for free on the web.
    Hi Polednice,

    Can you please direct me to the place you refer to on the web, where Prout's series of books on composition and orchestra can be obtained for free?

    I appreciate these resources, thanks--I am very much involved in music study at the moment, and welcome all such suggestions, especially when it comes to free materials.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chillowack View Post
    Hi Polednice,

    Can you please direct me to the place you refer to on the web, where Prout's series of books on composition and orchestra can be obtained for free?

    I appreciate these resources, thanks--I am very much involved in music study at the moment, and welcome all such suggestions, especially when it comes to free materials.
    Certainly

    Prout's works can be obtained here at the Internet Archive.

    That will list all the books they have by Prout (including some duplicates), but I'll list all the ones that concern music theory (and in chronological order, because they were intended to be read in the order that he wrote them):

    Instrumentation (1877)
    Harmony: its theory and practice (1889)
    Counterpoint: strict and free (1890)
    Double Counterpoint and Canon (1891)
    Fugue (1891)
    Fugal Analysis: a companion to 'Fugue' (1892)
    Musical Form (1893)
    Applied Forms (1895)
    The Orchestra (Volume 1) (1898)
    The Orchestra (Volume 2) (1898)

    You should of course bear in mind the date at which they were written - which may have various consequences depending on your compositional style - but they are certainly valuable and comprehensive materials for the fundamentals of music theory. Besides, you should know all the 'rules' before you dare to break them

    The Internet Archive is a fantastic resource for all kinds of things, and you may already be aware that the treatises of Rimsky-Korsakov and Berlioz can be found on IMSLP, among other things. I hope that helps

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    It would be very beneficial to study a man by the name of Georgy Catoire. Tchaikovsky himself said it would be a sin if Catoire didn't become one of the greats. Sadly, performances of his works are very rare these days, and not very many folks have heard of him. His great sense of singing tone, rich modal progressions and chromatics, and eclectic rhythmic device really open people's heads to new possibilities. He was a romantic composer, but still worth studying because he explored a lot of complicated ideas that never got followed up on.
    "Your mathematics are correct, but your physics are abominable..." Einstein

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