Thursday, September 12, 2013

Composers' Workshop

I have rejoined the BMI Jazz Composers' Workshop while I am on sabbatical from university teaching.  I participated twice before, in 2003 and 2007.  Traveling to New York City regularly (almost weekly) from Storrs, CT is a considerable commitment because I basically lose a full day of productivity.  I rationalize that it will be worthwhile for the following reasons:
  • benefiting from the feedback of a peer group, as well as Jim McNeely and Mike Holober, the workshop directors.
  • having regular deadlines, thereby forcing me to complete plenty of new music
  • trying some new techniques, and gathering ideas from other composers in an effort to escape my compositional ruts/routines
  • networking --- making some new friends and professional contacts
  • hearing my new pieces and musical experiments played by a band of skilled, professional NYC musicians.
  • setting myself on a forward/creative trajectory which will continue well beyond my sabbatical.
Earlier this week I met all the workshop participants at an informational session with Jim McNeely and Mike Holober.  The participants are an impressive bunch, with professional and academic credentials galore.  After reviewing the booklet of guidelines, some compositional discussions ensued, which have already got my wheels turning.

It was made clear that merely arranging and developing our small group tunes was discouraged. Although this is a valid and often used technique, McNeely and Holober encouraged us to stretch and experiment.  We are to experience starting from nothing and building from the ground up --- trying techniques outside our usual 'bag of tricks'.  Exclusive use of repeating, cyclical forms, such as experienced in 90% of jazz repertoire, was also discouraged.  To a degree, this will be a stretch for me; but I welcome the challenge.

If all goes well, this should be a transformative musical year.