The holiday season is in full force, and that means trips to visit the family, gifts to purchase, and holiday jingles to exorcise from the ear with vigor. This year I am lucky to have already received a gift that will be hard to top: my professional debut with my hometown orchestra, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. There’s nothing quite like being able to invite your family and friends to come see you at work, and this was made all the more sweet by bringing the totally on fleek new concerto by Mason Bates. To top it off, the concert was the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I was able to spend a few extra days with my family out on the farm and catch up while eating the freshest food there is. Continue reading at secondinversion.org.
I write this as I sit in a very comfortable business/first seat on a flight from Asia back home to New York City, reflecting on my visit to Seoul. One of my close friends had his wedding there, and I was fortunate enough to be free and able to be with him and his new wife for this important occasion. We spent some amazing time together in the city, and I got to play at his wedding, on a cello made by his father. The flight upgrade is happily a result of my frequent flier status, which makes a big difference on such trips. Music has a powerful effect in the world. It’s all around us every day, whether we choose it or not. We use music during gatherings of all kinds to create a unified spirit or deepen bonds, music pervades the other forms of entertainment to enhance desired emotional effects, and we have special occasions (concerts) where music is the centerpiece. Music is not only about community, these days most people have their own collection of music that they can tap into depending on their mood or activity. You can take this even further through music therapy, and other forms of healing both mental and emotional. It’s also used to influence us to purchase certain products, to attract us to a location or entice us to stay longer – even sometimes to drive us away.
It’s alive! My first cello concerto, has come into the world – kicking and screaming – but alive. What a crazy experience. I’ve never done anything quite like this, and while it was a project that stretched me almost to the limit, it’s been worth it. I feel more in touch with my artistic sensibility than ever, and more motivated to continue the creative process than I have been in a long time. I’ll save details of the piece for the day when I’m able to share a recording. In the meantime, there were plenty of lessons in the process.
Lesson 1: Everything Takes Longer Than You Think! Lesson 2: Everything Takes Longer Than You Think, Even After Allowing For Lesson 1.
The other lessons were more fun, and didn’t require all-nighters. (which leads to apologies to my copyist, George Katehis, who should be sponsored by Red Bull.)
My mandate from the beginning was clear and concise: TownMusic’s programming should reflect my musical interests. A live iPod playlist, if you will. Well, my interests are broad and evolving! What can I say? Nine seasons in, I’ve seen the development of an audience that comes for an experience. We’re lucky, in this sense, to be tied to an organization like Town Hall Seattle, which fosters community discussion and debate around issues important to Seattle. This spirit of engagement naturally flows over into the music series, and has prompted me to explore musical connections that might not be obvious based on traditional metrics. When an audience member leaves one of the TownMusic concerts, I want them to have had an experience that generates curiosity and excitement. Hopefully, they will have been surprised at some point, whether by unknown sounds or their own reaction to something of which they previously had a different expectation.
But how to do this without having a total mishmash of unrelated projects? There are several things which remain consistent from season to season:
Damn. This is hard! My respect for composers has gone through the roof since I first began scrawling on manuscript paper, and at no time has it been higher than the present. The focus and skill required to compose a work for soloist and orchestra are not easy to come by. Taking a few initial ideas – whether they come as a sound, a form, a gesture, a transitional mechanism – and turning them into a cohesive musical narrative is a process that can only be learned through experience. There have got to be as many ways to do this as there are composers. I’ve gone through several myself, even on this one piece. To begin with, I had the idea to write from the piano. Supposedly, this would help me focus on the relationship between soloist and orchestra, rather than writing a solo line with incidental backup music behind it. Ironically, I realized several weeks into this method that all of the best moments were in the orchestra part, and the solo line was now secondary! Not to mention, it was taking forever due to my rudimentary keyboard skills.