“Composing Diary” is an ongoing series detailing my misadventures in writing a piece for Alarm Will Sound. You can see previous entries here.

Photo by Jodi-Renee Giron.
Photo by Jodi-Renee Giron.

Finishing Day

The one on the left in the picture above is me. The much more handsome gentleman on the right is my friend Nacho.

Nacho is an eight-year-old living in Denver. He’s an unbelievably smart little guy, a gifted musician, and the unofficial mascot of the Denver jazz community. He loves the Avengers and has a soft spot for Phineas and Ferb. He also has terrible asthma that occasionally threatens his life, but unless you caught a glimpse of his red emergency inhaler you’d never know it. You’d only ever see an affectionate kid with a biting sense of humor, an inspiring sense of wonder, and a craving for ice cream.

It’s a while since I last updated my virtual diary with news about this piece for Alarm Will Sound, but the last three months summarize to this: wall after wall after wall. It’s not hard for me to understand the reasons why. This semester’s uneven schedule and random engagements made it tough to settle into a writing routine. Composing for such a phenomenal collection of musical superheroes as Alarm Will Sound carries a lot of pressure, and it affected my ability to love any idea that came out of the pencil; nothing was ever good enough. I chiseled away at the diamond block encasing this piece as best I could, using art, free association, and any other technique I could conjure. Little to nothing worked.

Then something happened: Nacho went back to the hospital. (more…)

Photo by Hamed Saber. CC-A.
Photo by Hamed Saber. CC-A.

Having sent off the finished version of my latest piece (Dragonfly for Neal Titus, a percussionist at UNC Greeley) a few days ago, I spent the weekend in that comfortable lull between pieces. The bizarre cocktail of accomplished afterglow and postpartum depression that comes with finishing a project is, altogether, a sweet one, and it’s important to enjoy the silences before jumping forward. It doesn’t necessarily count as “rest” – there’s not really such a thing for a doctoral student, I find – but for just a few days, it’s nice to have the answer to “what are you working on?” be a relaxed, peaceful, “nothing.”

But the weekend is just about over, and I’m jumping into the next project: a piece for the unbelievably-awesome new music orchestra Alarm Will Sound, to be workshopped and premiered as part of the Mizzou International Composers Festival, where I’m extremely lucky to be a resident this summer. This kind of project is a new one for me, never having written for an ensemble this versatile (or, for that matter, this awesome). Simultaneously, I’ve been trying to fill this space with words on a much more regular basis, both to encourage readership and to provide myself with much-needed venting therapy. Why not try killing two birds with one stone?

Without further ado, I give you the first installment of my Composing Diary, which will track my various misadventures in writing this piece, from the blank page to the finished score. Follow along if you like, and feel free to chime in with your ideas; I might learn something. (more…)