Classical Music Buzz > why compose when you can blog?
why compose when you can blog?
Jennifer Jolley
a blog about my attempts at composing (or not composing…)
131 Entries

Hi Lindsay Cat, you always make me feel better, especially when I think my music has a chance in a certain composition competition.


I was hoping to win this one, especially since I paid some money to enter this competition. Remind me again to never pay a fee for a competition again.
1 year ago | |
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I have a feeling some of you were wondering what I was doing with a whole bunch of bananas, mini alligator clips, and my laptop, so let me explain.
This past weekend I was attending the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) for the first time, and I knew I was going to be there for SOME TIME, so why not have fun?
Long story short, I received a MaKey MaKey for Christmas (thanks Love!), and I loved it so much that I made my Intro to Electronic Students purchase one for their final project.


I wanted to create a keyboard of my own, so after a stop at Kroger for bananas and an extension cord, I set up my keyboard at the Ohio Wesleyan University booth at OMEA. I used bananas, a MaKey MaKey, my laptop, and my "Sounds from the Gray Goo 1.01" Max/MSP patch. BLAMO.






Now, what to do with those bananas…I wonder what I can do with bananas
1 year ago | |
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Well, he did it. The composer who wears a healthy dose of Hawaiian shirts, has a fondness for penguins, and can easily tell by the look of my face if I'm wanting to write an opera again has won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Bravo Stephen Hartke. I am so happy for you.

eighth blackbird- Meanwhile (incidental music for imaginary puppet plays) --- a short film by Manual Cinema from eighth blackbird on Vimeo.

*And bravi to eighth blackbird. You guys rock.
1 year ago | |
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Photographer: Tim Wilkerson for The Atlanta Opera
It is time to dust off this blog and mooch a story from The Atlanta Opera since it is their third annual 24-Hour Opera Project.  I do have fond memories of the event last year, and I'm sad I won't be able to participate this year.1 However, I do plan to throw a party and watch the live-streaming of the show. (Advantage: I get a good night's sleep this time around. The participants this year…not so much.)

I wish everyone luck (including my sharp and quick librettist from last year, Vynnie Meli, who is crazy enough to participate for the third year in a row), and I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing their stuff. Even though we composers may not like to crampose, sometimes we create some fantastic work under pressure.2

From last year's 24HOP: Layover by Sarah Hersh and Brad Fairchild, produced by NANOWorks.
——— 1. Audition weekend. 2. I will keep telling myself when I write The Bubble. I guess I will need to eat lots of cocoa almond spread to get me through this month. Sob.
1 year ago | |
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What better way to start my birthday the year with a couple of rejection letters I should have posted earlier. Actually, these two are not terribly soul-crushing because they do not contain the same wording most rejection letters normally have. See below.


I must confess I had been anticipating a traditional rejection letter from this establishment for the past few weeks, and then I realized that THIS is the rejection letter. I was confused: there were no "thanks for submitting your piece" or "we had a gazillion fine entries" or "unfortunately your piece was not selected" statements that are normally sprinkled across generic rejection templates.
So, I'm posting this. I'll let you know if a real rejection letter appears in my inbox anytime soon.
This next rejection letter actually gives me some hope.


Woot! A potential performance! Maybe! I'm just happy KK&BQ isn't dying after its premiere performance.
And, speaking of opera, N.A.N.O.Works is having their next production this Wednesday at Rohs Street Cafe called "Layover Overlay." Go!
1 year ago | |
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Happy New Year! In the grand tradition of making or not making resolutions, I've decided that I'm going to be good this year and actually listen to new music as often as I should.

This guilt of not listening to music as often as I should has been gnawing at me for some time—it preceded my meeting with Augusta Read Thomas and followed me through my graduate school days.

And sadly, I never was disciplined to do anything about it. You'd think after a major composer stated I had huge gaps in my listening that I would have surgically attached an iPod to myself so that I could finally listen to enough prescribed Berio or Takemitsu or Rihm…but that didn't happen.

I should blame myself for being lazy, and I should especially blame myself for not having a plan to listen to more music. In fact, I had no plan until I read David Smooke's article about finding time to listen to music. That's it, I thought, I merely needed to carve out listening time. Simple enough, I can do that. In fact, now I'm forced to.

For the past few months (or maybe the past few years?) I've had crippling shoulder and neck pain. I'd sit at my laptop and the pain would slowly creep and escalate until I ate some NSAIDs like candy and hoped the pain would go away. Sometimes it would go away, or sometimes my stomach would start hurting instead, and most of the time the pain would not go away and I would have to stop working, walk around, and gripe and grimace that I was not getting any work done.

Obviously, this was not healthy, and so I decided to start seeing a chiropractor.

Long story short, the chiropractor took x-rays of my neck and told me I had reverse cervical lordosis. In other words, my neck is curving the wrong way, which may be contributing to my pain. (I also think my deplorable posture habits may also be contributing, but that's another story.) This is actually an easy fix: I am to lie on my back with my neck over a ledge (like over the side of a bed) for up to twenty minutes a day so I could stretch my neck back into place.

This is not my neck, but it's a representation of what it looks like..
I was to gradually work up to this twenty-minute mark. When I started doing this exercise for three minutes, I pretended that this was my mini exercise in meditation: I was to quiet my mind for a short time while literally looking at the world upside-down.

After the five minute mark, my mind grew restless. Knowing that I was never going to be good at this meditation thing, I had to do something with my time. Unfortunately there is not much you can do while having your head upside-down: you can't read, you can't surf the Internet, you can't watch television or movies. However, you can listen to music. And therefore, I have found a way to carve out twenty minutes a day (well, most days) and ingest my daily dose of new music.

My advice to you readers is this: listen to new music daily, and do it now before the doctors force you too. You will be healthier because of it.
1 year ago | |
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This is from 5chw4rtz's Final Friday blog post. PLEASE check out his blog: it is the best.
Unsilent Night will finally be performed in Cincinnati! Thanks to Drew Klein and the Contemporary Arts Center, the inaugural Cincinnati edition will begin at the CAC and end at Fountain Square on Saturday, December 15 at 7 p.m. (arrive at 6:30 p.m.).

I remember the first time I heard about Phil Kline's Unsilent Night: it was December 2006, I was living in Vermont in the time, and I was listening to Studio 360's Redesigning Christmas while commuting from Burlington to Waterbury to do my choir director stint at the Waterbury Congregational Church.

After hearing "1, 2, 3, PLAY!" on the radio and listening to this reenactment of his music, dude, it was fantastic. The I-89 had never sounded better. My car was temporarily filled with gorgeous, celestial, and beautifully-dissonant-at-times ambient music.



As soon as I got home, I had to know more. After searching the Internet, I found the Unsilent Night website and read a description of the piece.
"Unsilent Night is an original composition by Phil Kline, written specifically to be heard outdoors in the month of December. It takes the form of a street promenade in which the audience becomes the performer. Each participant gets one of four tracks of music in the form of a cassette, CD, or Mp3. Together all four tracks comprise Unsilent Night. The fact that the participants play different "parts" simultaneously helps create the special sound of the piece. Participants carry boomboxes, or anything that amplifies music, and simultaneously start playing the music. They then walk a carefully chosen route through their city’s streets, creating a unique mobile sound sculpture which is different from every listener's perspective."
Unfortunately, Unsilent Night was not being performed in Burlington that year. And when I moved to Cincinnati in 2007, it wasn't being performed there either. I even had this crazy idea to start one of these performances last year, but my stint as a graduate student/adjunct professor kind of made life busy.

HOWEVER, it is finally being performed in six days!

ALAS!
I will have to grade juries from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on that same day in Delaware.

I am heartbroken.
If you are in Cincinnati, go! Download the Unsilent Night app or download the mp3s bring a boombox OR carry one of my tape recorders…because I'm letting the CAC borrow them for this long-awaited event. It is my way of being there in person, so please go and participate. (And take lots of pictures. Please.)
1 year ago | |
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Here is my first foray into live electronic music, something I've only faked-dabbled in since 2009 as part of my Sounds from the Gray Goo series, and I'm already crossing my fingers, throwing salt over my shoulder, and making sacrifices for the Electronic Music Gods1 so that it will not die in public in front of excited teenagers when it premieres this Saturday. (Or later on when I produce a joint electro-acoustic recital with Spencer Lambright in April.)
Long story short, Nancy Gamso, a woodwind specialist, asked me to write a piece for alto flute and soprano saxophone to be performed at Ohio Wesleyan University's Woodwind Day so high school students can see and hear these two instruments being performed…by the same person. I thought using a laptop to combine these two mismatched instruments would help meld them together. I have the alto flute creating a minimalist accompaniment using delay, and then halfway through the piece, the accompaniment plays backwards while the soprano saxophone emits a lyrical melody on top.
Yes, that's the best idea I could come up with.
Since my Max programming skills are…lacking…at best,2 I hope to show my internal frustration and crying in despair progression in creating this Max patch. (In other words, for those who are afraid of programming in Max, you can do it! It's pretty enough so that you won't get terribly confused!3)

So, to start off, I realized my version of Max would not recognize any external mic I plugged in. Or even my internal mic. After two days of cursing at the DSP Status Window, I realized it was not my fault. Two days later. (Did I mention TWO FREAKING DAYS LATER?!)

Afterward, I made some progress.


Oops indeed. I forgot to rename my buffer, which was initially named "helpme." I wonder why.

More progress followed.


And finally, I now have the patch shown at the top of this post. The patch works perfectly on my computer, but only on my computer. I gave Nancy a standalone patch for her computer, which works fine except it will not recognize any audio input. Sob. Anyone know how to fix this? She has Mac OS Version 10.7.5. In the meantime, what do the Electronic Music Gods like as sacrifices? Sheep? Pigeons? Twinkies?

———
1. Yes, I'm very aware that the Electronic Music Gods are fickle deities similar to the Baseball Gods, who were not kind to two of my favorite National League teams this year.
2. I will say this: I will (and should) give myself credit for (eventually) creating working patches that pass the compiler's muster. Or semi-working patches. (I seriously hope this statement doesn't anger the Electronic Music Gods. [See above footnote.])
3. I think I personally need sleek programming layouts to code properly. Like, having stuff in Presentation Mode outlined in pink. Yes, that's both girly and helpful, unlike the visuals in Pd-extended. (N.B. I don't mean that to sound insulting, and, in fact, I hope to learn this program someday, especially if I want to teach my students computer music programming. Also on this note, it's not like we need girly programming language to code well.)
1 year ago | |
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For your Thanksgiving gluttony pleasure, here is N.A.N.O.Works's production of Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens in Cincinnati as part of Classical Revolution (Constella Edition).

And, on this note, The Atlanta Opera will be presenting its third annual 24-Hour Opera Project on Friday, January 25 and Saturday, January 26, 2013. So, if you're a composer, lyricist, stage director, or opera singer, you can apply.1


———
1. I have been asked if I'm going to participate again. I am tempted to do so, but considering that I would have to fly in from Columbus (and The Atlanta Opera will not pay for transportation), signs are pointing to no. Also, Old Jenn says that pulling an all-nighter would not be worth it. For those who are keeping score: Old Jenn 237, Young Jenn 0.
1 year ago | |
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They're not ALL cat pictures…
To add to the category of "nicest rejection letters of all time" (or are they killing me with their kindness?), I present this case study.

This appeared in my inbox fourteen days before receiving the actual rejection letter.

And then I received the actual rejection letter in the form of a press release.

Eh, I will say this (like in the case of both the Dodgers and the Reds not winning the world series): there is always next year. Actually, I'm happy this fellowship was even offered: the Individual Artists Grants were cut in 2009 due to lack of funding. Congrats to those who won—I hope to see and hear your stuff around the city soon.

1 year ago | |
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