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…)
138 Entries
Greetings from outside-of-Salerno, Italy, where I'm taking a much needed working vacation1 after NANOWorks' run of THE BUBBLE and Other Displays of Moral Turpitude at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

Whew.

Normally I'd be all a-glow gushing about the world premiere of my opera about the housing bubble, but I'm just so freaking happy that my partner/co-founder/librettist/all-around-fantastic-person and I produced four nano-productions and had them performed five times. And it all came together. And we survived it. And the house is still standing.

Let me tell you—producing your own opera series (at a Fringe festival) is an experience in which the learning curve is rather steep. I have learned quite a bit from this experience,2 and I've also learned how to deal with reviews from critics who have no musical background.

I have to admit, I was a little bit naïve about the process: I thought that the local music critics would attend my show (I mean, I did email them about it and they should have been aware of the performances), but they never came. Instead, all of the (freelance) theatre critics appeared since they were assigned to attend all of the Cincinnati Fringe shows. Is that why the music critics never attended? Did they assume their theatre colleagues would have the same background as them and understand the opera genre?


I'm not sure. What I did learn was that the theatre crowd can be hostile to opera, mainly because most believe that it's long, foreign, and mainly sung in Italian. And I also got the impression that some did not want to be there, which was quite sad and disappointing to me. In this review, for example, I was slightly confused about the line "Once into the flow, however, I saw fewer yawns in the audience." The opening night audience was the best we've had as a company.3

In this other review/blog post, I appreciate that this writer admitted that he had only seen a handful of operas. And, I learned through his review that theatre-goers probably want to feel emotionally connected to their characters onstage. Since the operas I produced were about really really really really really bad people, I didn't think the audience would have connected to the characters.4

The last review was probably the most balanced in that the critic actually researched our fledgling company. He had good things to say about our production, he pointed out that our stage direction was lacking (which, considering that we're not really stage directors, makes sense, although I wish he mentioned how we could fix it), but he mentioned that one of my singers had poor diction (which is NOT true!). I wish I could talk to all these theatre critics and explain that female operatic voices are harder to understand. (I mean, sung text is harder to understand than spoken text.)

Anyway, I did learn quite a bit from this production, and I now know who my Fringe audience is. I can now attune my productions to sustain their attention and interest. I believe opera can learn a bit from the theatre kids, and in turn, we can show them that opera is fun and exciting.

———

So, I'm the composer-in-residence this week at Chamber Music Campania! My woodwind trio Ma fin est mon commencement, est mon commencement5 will be performed in Varano this weekend. The musicians are stellar, and I can't wait to hear my piece (in rehearsal) this afternoon.

1. More on that later.
2. As in, how to do it better next time.
3. I mean, they were a highly lubricated audience, ergo they were not yawning.
4. Like I totally related to buying a house with my student loans. Ever.
5. Let it be known that I have now abandoned extensive titles. You're welcome.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
The NANOWorks crew
"Newcomers are mistaken if they think grand opera is the only true opera." I agree with Alex Ross, and he proceeds to point out that quite a few chamber opera companies have sprung up in New York City. There have also been a couple other chamber opera companies that have been popping up throughout the country, and I am quite encouraged by these small upstarts. I think there comes a point when creative people (whether they be composers, writers, performers, et cetera) realize that they need to take performance opportunities into their own hands and create them. For me personally, this is always what I try to do because (1) Joan Tower told me and my fellow composers over a decade ago to do just this and (2) I realized my performance opportunities weren't going to necessarily happen via winning composition competitions.
On this note, I want to mention New Fangled Opera again because they are doing more or less what I am doing: starting their own opera company because they want to create performance opportunities for composers and singers and whomever else is involved in creating Gesamtkunstwerk. They have their first 2013 Festival on June 7th and 8th in New Orleans, and they're trying to raise money for the show. Please contribute if you can: they are not only performing my infamous opera about Paula Deen and the afterlife, but they're also performing Timothy Brown's An Accidental Affair (which was literally written the same time I was writing Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens in the room next to mine), and Charles Halka's Layover, an opera that NANOWorks has produced and will perform one more time at the 2013 Cincinnati Fringe Festival.



And speaking of the Fringe Show...you had better come if you can make it! I promise it will be a good show. I'm not saying this because, yes, this is probably the last time you will see and hear Paula choke on a doughnut and die onstage in Cincinnati, but also because the performers are working their butts off. I want to thank Tyler Catlin and Liz Remizowski, our musical director and piano maven for conducing rehearsals *for every show* and the tireless singers and performers who have come along for the ride.

The showtimes are:
Wednesday, May 29 at 8:45 p.m.Friday, May 31 at 7:00 p.m.Sunday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m.Tuesday, June 4 at 8:15 p.m.Thursday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m.


1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

On a personal note, I accomplished something I wanted to do since I was twelve years old: earn a doctorate in something.
Did I want to be a scholar? Yes, but I don't think I completely grasped what that meant. Did I think I could teach everyone at that level? Oh yes. Did I think I would know everything by that point? Most certainly. And did my young Republican self want to earn a doctorate because I would make way more money than the average high school graduate? You betcha.1
Anyway, I finally earned my degree last year in August, and now I have the ceremony to go with it.

Now back to grading.———1. Yes, times have changed.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Yes Dennis, that is your cat.
Not related to composer FAILs but somewhat related, kudos to Caroline Shaw for winning the Pulitzer Prize in Music for her "Partita for 8 Voices." I am DIGGING it (minus the random Spotify ads), and I want to hear it live someday. According to the NPR Deceptive Cadence blog, "[Shaw] noted that she sent in the piece for Pulitzer consideration — not that she thought that there was much chance of winning, but because she wanted more recognition for Roomful of Teeth's work."

So guess what we're all going to do? Submit our stuff! Might as well.

And on that note:

And life goes on.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Before I start, I wanted to give a shout-out to Spencer Lambright, Chrissy Kim, Paula Van Goes, Nancy Gamso, and volunteer performers (for the "Press Play" piece) at the Middle Tennessee State University and Ohio Wesleyan University concerts on Wednesday and Saturday. What a fun crazy electronic music show! I can't thank all of you guys enough! (And for those who missed out, hopefully I'll have video of the show posted soon.)

And, before I show you said video of said excerpt ofTHE BUBBLE, I also wanted to put in a plug about the Performance and Time Arts April Fundraising Extravaganza. I mean, this show will be off the hook, and Kari Olson will be adding movement to "Ticket Punch" of Speilzeug Straßenbahn fame. (Who am I kidding? This piece isn't famous. Yet.) Advance tickets (or in other words, cheaper tickets) are available by clicking here.

So, here is the first scene of THE BUBBLE, which was workshopped at the Performance and Time Arts Series on March 9, 2013. Dashiell Waterbury as THE DEAN, M. Andrew Jones as THE BANKER, and Karen Wissel Shiota as THE DITZ. THE BUBBLE will be a 25 minute opera by NANOWorks founders Kendall A and Jennifer Jolley about the build-up of the U.S. housing market before its devastating collapse. In it, a college co-ed called simply "The Ditz" —an unspoken role played by a dancer—literally stumbles into the purchase of a house with nothing more than her student loan money. The four supporting male singers represent various parts of the easy lending establishment that created the bubble, and become a sort of bankershop quartet as the dancer's character, gets put through their paces. The comedy is ribald (a metaphor for the base, unthinking greed of the times) and meant to be reminiscent of Vaudeville or silent film era slapstick. With Tyler Catlin, music director; Liz Remizowski, piano maven.




——— And…speaking of opera…have you purchased your early-bird tickets for a HUGE NANOWorks production coming up May 3rd and 4th? (Because on April 27th, prices go up.) There are a few more treats and surprises. (In other words, it's my way of saying, "There's always money in the banana stand." Well, I guess I really don't have money in the banana stand (nor do I have a banana stand), but there will be a surprise.)
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
A few weeks ago I was excitedly and meticulously planning my trip to Chicago—I was having a premiere of Speilzeug Straßenbahn at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and what girl would not be thrilled?

I had my entire trip mapped out: I booked a hotel and rental car, ordered a new dress and new boots online, and I was ready to hit the road as soon as I was done teaching my composition lesson for that day.

However, two days before my Chicago debut I received this email:
"Hi Jennifer, I wanted to let you know straight away that in discussion with the MCA it has been decided to reschedule this weeks concerts for another date. The MCA are totally committed to the project, as am I, and we will figure out another time when they can happen. Sorry if this causes any inconvenience and I look forward to presenting your work in the future."
I was in shock. I just told my students an hour prior to reading that email that their classes were canceled due to my being out-of-town for this performance. Did I lie to them? I mean, they probably read about my new piece in their school's electronic newsletter. A preview piece was even published in the Chicago Sun-Times. For a split second, I was wondering if I made up this whole premiere in my head—because why would anyone ask me to write a piece for them when Anna Clyne, Elbio Barilari, David Fulmer, Jason Seed, and Christopher Theofanidis were on the same bill?



Alas, not everything has gone to waste. Yes, I am still waiting for the premiere of this piece (which may not happen until next year), but my pop-cultural 1980s muse, who suggested I incorporate the Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood Trolley Theme in this work, also gave me this brilliant idea.



Yes, my tweet was facetious at the time, but after I received that upsetting email, I was no longer joking. I fired up my GarageBand application, converted my MIDI files to Magical 8bit Plugin instruments, and created this monster.
Well, this monster will get its premiere: it will be paired with original movement by Kari Olson at the Performance and Time Arts series Friday April 19 and Saturday April 20 at 8 p.m.

Will I eventually compare-and-contrast the differences between the chiptune and Baroque ensemble versions? Possibly. Maybe I'll comment on the modern-instrument version too.

———
Other news.

1. I leave TODAY for a joint recital with über-cool composer Spencer Lambright at Middle Tennessee State University. ROADTRIP. (And yes, I'm taking my tape recorders with me.) If you can't make it down to (outside of) Nashville, I'm doing the same show at Ohio Wesleyan University. I'll keep you posted.

2. Did I also mention NANOWorks has a huge compilation of productions coming up May 3 and 4? I'll be blogging about this, but you can buy DISCOUNTED tickets here. If you're in the Cincinnati area and you love me, you will buy tickets. Also, there will be a surprise from yours truly.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

So yay, Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens was accepted into a festival! I think this is a first!

I'm excited that I'm on the same bill as Veronica Krausas (who was a grad student at USC when I was an undergrad there) and Charles Halka, which, coincidentally enough, is an opera that NANOWorks has premiered and produced. In fact, I may chime in and state that NANOWorks has produced two of the short operas that New Fangled Opera will have as part of their festival, which will take place June 7th and 8th in New Orleans.
(Can I also give a shout-out to Chris and Shelley Burton for founding a new opera company in New Orleans dedicated to performing and producing new works?! Rock on.)
The only bad news is that I cannot make this performance because NANOWorks will be producing something at the same time. I am not allowed to announce anything yet, but I will keep you posted. (Oh, and I'm missing a trip to NOLA.)
And speaking of NANOWorks, our first full-evening production compiled of short new operas twenty-five minutes or less will be taking place on May 3rd and 4th. The program includes a regional premiere of Douglas Pew's new opera A Game of Hearts, Halka's "Layover," as well as a couple more treats and surprises. Tickets are now on sale.
Click here for tickets to the May 3rd show (Terrace Park).
Click here for tickets to the May 4th show (Cincinnati).
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

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 | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

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 | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

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 | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
41 - 50  | 123456789 next
InstantEncore