Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Barlow Endowment Day 2

Let the final judging begin!

On the second day of my internship in the mountains, we all convened together with our 4-6 applications that we felt were the best from our rooms the previous day. After we had all gathered, us, the interns, presented the applicants to the judges. We played a sample of their music for them, similar to what we listened to in the individual rooms, while they took notes. Quietly, we moved onto the next application. We did this for all 20 applications that were brought to the table. After every application had been presented, there was discussion.

Discussion was rather interesting to me. It seemed that the best applications naturally rose to the top of the pack. The was something that distinguished them from all the other applicants. Quickly, all the applications were whittled down to a few. This is when I thought things would get ugly. I thought that one person was going to stick with one application to the very end and never be convinced that someone else was going to win. It started to look that way. We took another listen to the pieces. Listened to some additional things in more depth. This then led to more discussion. Surprisingly, all of the judges came to a consensus  rather fast. "What? That's it? No fighting? No yelling or screaming?"

The judges were very respectful of each other's opinions and rather than fighting, they presented their concerns and arguments and were completely open to what others had to say. It was quite remarkable and amazing.

Shortly after lunch, a winner had been decided for the prize.

After all this, we were given a little break. We then had the task of going through the general and lds applications. This process was much faster as there were fewer applications to sort through.

The general applications are different from the prize applications in a few ways. First of all, there is no set commission money. They can name their composer fee. As much or as little as they want. Second, they don't have to write for a specific ensemble. They can choose anything they want. The purpose of the general commission is to promote new music and to help young and old composers alike to actively create new music. Also, because this is an endowment from Brigham Young University, it has a special category for lds composers.

We chose the final applications, which were to be brought to the table the next morning.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Barlow Endowment Day 1

These past few days, I have had the amazing opportunity to hang out with several modern composers of our day at the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition. Everything that went on was so interesting to me and quite inspiring. I had so much fun doing this.

First off, I got this opportunity from BYU to be an intern for this competition. The Barlow Endowment is specific towards music composition and gives composers a chance to get their names out there as well as compete for a hefty prize (this year was $12,000 to write a piece for Piano Trio). So cool.

My job as an intern was to file all of the applications. As boring as filing and data entry is, this was really neat. I got to know composers better. I got so see where all of the applications were coming from and to see, in person, all of the music that was coming in. All of the applications were due by June 1, and we had everything filed away by the end of that first week in June.

After all the filing was done, I had to wait until the beginning of August where I was to be present at the judging of all of these applications. The judging took place at a beautiful resort at Snowbird. I thought it was really cool to take all the applications and to go far away into the mountains to judge everything. It was really nice and relaxing to be there, and it was absolutely beautiful (smack forehead because I forgot my camera!).

I will chronicle everything a day at a time because there was so much that happened in each day. This post would be forever long if I didn't.

I arrived in Snowbird on Sunday evening, August 1. The main thing we did was get a quick run-through of what we were supposed to do and then we set up the rooms with a sound system and the applications for the judging the next morning.

The morning came, and after a huge all-you-can-eat breakfast, all the interns and judges gathered in a room for a quick meeting. We were given a time frame for judging, some guidelines and then we headed to the rooms to get started.

This is where it gets interesting. Our first task was to go through the applications for the Prize, which is a $12,000 commission for a Piano Trio. There were four judging rooms, 8 judges, and about 82 prize applications per room. We had to get through them all and choose our top 4-6 before dinner time. That came to about
7 hours of judging! If you do the math, that gave us roughly 5 minutes per application. Some of the pieces that people would send in were anywhere from 5-60 minutes long, and they each sent in two pieces. That is quite a task to make a judgment call after hearing a piece for only a few minutes.

I learned so many things just being the intern that was helping out and basically staying out of the way of the judges. Here are some of them.
  1. Direction - where is the piece going? What are you trying to do with the material? There were so many pieces that started, but never really went anywhere, whether that was staying with the same ideas as the beginning, or being stuck on the same chord in the end as in the beginning. Everything needed to serve a purpose and to lead the listen to something else.
  2. Don't be afraid to enter - there were a lot of applications that were submitted. In turn, there were a lot that were really good, but in the end, only one winner could be picked. However, one of the judges I was with was a performer. He was writing down all sorts of names and contact information because he himself wanted to play the piece or he had some students that would like to play one of the pieces. Just because there is only one winner, that doesn't mean that the remaining 325 applications go unnoticed.
  3. Cleanliness really is next to Godliness - the applications that came in that were neatly bound, printed on nice paper and were very clear and clean always got a little more time with the judges. If they took the time to mark where all the tracks were and pointed the judges to places that they should look at fared a lot better than those who didn't. Though it all comes down to the music and your compositional skills, presentation was a huge part that would catch the attention of the judges in the first place.
These are just a few things that I learned. The list goes on and this post would get longer and longer, and you would be inclined to read less and less. I know that happens to me when I don't have a nice picture to take a break on.

Well, this is basically all we did for the entire day. Saying that makes it sound so boring, but it was so much fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I've never been so exciting about composition before in my life. I heard so many great things in one day and it sparked my imagination in so many different ways. I just hope I can produce some things that can compare to what I heard.