When I look at my music composition process, I’m actually pretty content and self-contained — it’s fun, and it’s self-satisfying as a “retirement project” even if I get little attention for it. But now that I have one major performance scheduled (20-20: A Choral Suite, Oct. 9, Lexington Chamber Chorale), and have gained in confidence that my work isn’t actually bad, it’s time to start putting it out there. This website and blog are one way. Another is by submitting works to music ensemble composition contests. There are two ways of doing that:
Writing specifically for a contest
In my wanderings on social media, I discovered a contest fielded by the Phoenix Boys Choir with a deadline of August 1, and with a specific subject requirement. It was June, so I had a little time. I recruited poet (and fellow tennis nut) Mike Wilson to scramble a set of lyrics on the contest subject, and off I went. I’ve given a link to a short excerpt below. I’ll be posting more details later, after the results of the contest are announced. (The contest requires that a submission be previously unperformed, and I’m being careful! NOTE: as always, this is a sample-based export, with no discernable lyrics. Patience!)
This, of course requires that you have compositions just layin’ around, waiting to see if something pops up in which one might fit. That seems like a bad idea — doing all that work in the hopes that you get lucky and a contest (or other opportunity) miraculously appears. But some artists never do anything else. (Van Gogh sold only one work in his lifetime.) I won’t pretend that Vincent and I share anything, but we both just want(ed) to create. I’d be writing even if things go nowhere. It turns out that my first foray into orchestral composition (September: a tone poem) was just such an experience — it was desperately fun to do, represented an enormous amount of work, and turned out wildly better than I could have predicted. And, yesterday, I discovered a contest from the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra that almost perfectly fit that work. All I had to do was clean up the score a bit, and submit it. Bam!
What could possibly go wrong?
Yeah, well, that’s a mouthful, there. Needless to say, contests with web presences have an international audience, and hence a potentially massive participation count. The chances of my work getting noticed is probably about as likely as nailing the Powerball. Some, like the Atlanta one, require an entrance fee, so you have to balance that against the value of winning.
Some contests have cash prizes, but most offer only the possibility of having your work performed by the ensemble offering the competition. That’s a hardship for anyone actually trying to make a career out of being a composer. But since I haven’t any expectations at that level, a performance is sufficient to my needs. Needless to say, if the Atlanta Philharmonic actually performed my tone poem, you can bet the wife and I will be in the audience, even if the travel and housing expenses are out-of-pocket.
And we’d be buying a PowerBall ticket on our way down!