Tag Archives: UMKCCompShop2014

UMKC Composition Workshop: Day 3

Day 3 of the UMKC Composition Workshop was focused mostly on the one and only Dr. Paul Rudy.

First off, he led us in a listening exercise in which he tried to free our minds from the assumptions and expectations people are constantly and unconsciously making. Before saying too much to us, he played what we thought was going to be a recording of Beethoven’s 6th. Right when we were all convinced we’d be listening to this piece a, THUNDEROUS and ROARING crash came through the speakers, and for the next few minutes we were bombarded by intense and surprising recorded sounds of storms and collapsing buildings. Dr. Rudy did this to prove that we are most often listening for something when hearing music, rather than listening to something. Right away, many of us knew what style of music we were listening to, what instrumentation, and some of us even knew the exact piece. All the assumptions and expectations can often lead the listener astray from the intent of the composer. As composers, we can utilize audience expectation as a tool, but we also need to be aware of our own expectations when listening to new music so that we are not depriving ourselves of new experiences and potentially great learning moments. Some of the most important moments I’ve had as a composer are those when I hear something incredibly beautiful and think “How did they do that?!”

Immediately following the listening exercise, Dr. Rudy presented some of his music to us. Saying his body of work is diverse is an insulting underestimation. He’s put out several albums of electro-acoustic music built around field recordings of everything from hail to farts, he’s written a 30-minute long improvisatory piece based on the theory of chakras, he’s written a super groovy concerto for alto sax and wind ensemble, etc. etc…Please check out this man’s music, it is interesting, beautiful, and inspiring.

To close out the Rudy centered activities, he and Michael Hall performed the previously mentioned 30-minute long improvisatory piece. It led to a thought-provoking discussion regarding the efficacy of improv focused performances, i.e. choosing the right venue, successfully including/engaging the audience, and we discussed the line between pure self-indulgence and actually performing with the intent to entertain others. It was a fascinating and enlightening discussion. We’ve been very lucky to hear Michael’s thoughts on composing and improvising from a performers point of view. He is of the highest caliber of players and incredibly wise and open-minded.

Later in the day were the “track” specific activities. There are three tracks: the standard track with Dr. Gibson, the improv track with Dr. Rudy, and the pedagogy track with Dr. Mobberly. I am on the pedagogy track. I love teaching, so I knew this would be the track for me.

On the first meeting with Dr. Mobberly he discussed the fact that there is almost no literature on composition pedagogy. For someone steeped in the world of academia, such as myself, it may be a good idea to develop my higher-ed teaching skills. I absolutely love watching people learn, it is one of life’s greatest pleasures for me. I look forward to discussing various methods and observing some of the greats here at UMKC work their pedagogical magic!

UMKC Composition Workshop: Day 2

Day 2 of the UMKC Composition Workshop started out with Dr. Mara Gibson sharing some of her past and recent projects with us. Her musical focus is on collaboration.  She says that 90% of the music she writes now is for people she is acquainted with so that the process feels more like a joint effort rather than a “capital-C-Composer” dictating music to others. She has also done some fascinating and beautiful work with videographers. I think that the lesson of collaboration is such an important one. Even to this day we composers feel the burden of tradition. We feel Beethoven, Brahms, and Boulez starring at us from some stormy cloud in the sky. Something that Dr. Gibson said during our first meeting on Saturday puts my preceding ramblings into concise perspective:

“Write music for people, not posterity.”

Later, we took a tour of the Nelson-Atkins Museum. It is good to know that the fine people at UMKC running this workshop understand the importance of art appreciation and would treat us to such a wonderful experience. I am not alone as a composer in being intensely interested in things outside of music, and this seems to be true of a lot of great composers. We sometimes need something extramusical to inform our work, whether it be  politics, science, or sculptures.

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Nelson-Atkins Museum

UMKC Composition Workshop

The past two nights have been close to sleepless in preparation for the UMKC Composition Workshop. Today is day one of the workshop, and so far it has been an outstanding experience, despite the sleep deprivation.

Today we were introduced to some of the composition faculty here at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Namely, Paul Rudy, Mara Gibson, and James Mobberley. They are incredibly interesting and open-minded. I can’t wait to get to know them throughout this week!

Shortly after the panel discussion with them, we watched a wonderful presentation from the trio Ensemble of Irreproducibale Outcomes. They are a group of composers that create innovative scores for themselves that allow the players in the group to improvise and generate different outcomes for each performance. If you’re ever able to see these guys live, don’t miss it!

To end the first day we heard an excellent performance of some 20th century music. My favorites from the night were Robert Pherigo’s performance of The Alcotts from Ives’ Concord Sonata and Michale Hall (viola) and Pherigo’s performance of Berio’s Naturale. 

More updates to come!