It is well-publicized that it's tough to be a young composer, that opportunities are scarce and you have to hustle to get anyone to play your music, and that one popular strategy is to say "yes" to every opportunity that comes your way.
I've spent most of my twenties ignoring this conventional wisdom, writing the pieces I felt like writing, inventing and adapting new musical situations as I went, rather than shaping compositional ideas around pre-existing ensembles and externally designed projects. There was a touch of iconoclasm to this approach, yes, but mostly it was a result of my longstanding commitment to being involved with my musical output as a performer.
Tallying the results today, in my "early late twenties," I see a lot of personally and artistically satisfying projects, but I also see a lot of ad hoc performing ensembles and concerts--replete with energy, but not always with polish. I see a lot of pieces that haven't received repeat performances. (Tenor voice/cello/double bass/bass clarinet/contrabassoon, anyone?) I've gained a clearer sense of myself as a musician, my aesthetic priorities and foibles, but I've also perhaps avoided extending myself in certain ways; responding to the exigencies of a commission with a deadline is a learning experience, too.
I raise these topics because sometime last year I tired of my pet projects and developed an appetite for the pursuit of conventional compositional opportunities. This was as great a surprise to me as to everyone else. Things came my way, and I adhered to the traditional approach: I said "yes" to everything.
And now, several months later, I find myself in another familiar situation for a young composer: I'm over-committed.
I guess you get so used to hustling that you don't know when to stop. I don't think I necessarily should have turned down any of the pieces presently on my plate, but it might have been a good idea to stage them a bit more carefully. Lesson learned.
The good news is that as a result I have some exciting premieres coming up. My always enterprising hornist friend Jessica Pearce has assembled an awesome benefit concert for the YOURS Project on February 24th. Jessica's quintet Windswept will premiere the wind quintet arrangement of my Lost Chorales, and the program will also feature my first double bar of 2013, a short trumpet/horn duet called Partsongs.
In March, my George Crumb Music for a Summer Evening crew from UT-Austin will reassemble in Orlando, the natural habitat of percussionist Thad Anderson, to play a show on the Collide Contemporary Music Series. I'm contributing a new piece, which for the moment must remain mysteriously untitled. And in May, Singers on New Ground and the Chicago Q Ensemble team up for a concert at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. The program includes a new song cycle by Brian Baxter and another Gullickson premiere, a song for soprano, violin, and viola.
On the nearer horizon, Grant Wallace Band has two shows in Chicago this month. First, on January 26th we open for our great friends, those geniuses of rock miniatures Paper Mice, at The Burlington in Logan Square. Here's the facebook event for that one. Then, on January 31st, we return to one of our favorite far north side haunts, Uncommon Ground, for a terrific evening with classical soprano/folkstress extraordinaire Alison Wahl.
That same night, the Locrian Chamber Players are taking And the trees of the field will clap their hands for a ride at Riverside Church in New York City. I can't wait to hear their spin on it.
A few days later, I drive south for a sure-to-be-badass season of artist residencies. I'll be at the VCCA for a month, then head to Wyoming to spend two weeks at Ucross. January is about tying up lots and lots of loose ends so I can have a clear head to begin new work when I get to Virginia. Wish me luck.
To that end, I even got out the banjo yesterday to start recording the next Golconda, which has been dubbed with the following working title: By these limits were they circumscribed and of them were they locus. Regular readers of this blog will perhaps catch the literary reference.
In further 2013 news, I like Twitter way more than I ever expected to.
Below, a couple shots from the Grant Wallace Band show at CSPS. We had a blast performing at this fantastic venue, and were blown away by the original Grant Wood drawings in the green room. Thanks Charles Raianerastha Black for the great photos!
• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues