Rolling Into 2018

New Year’s Eve is here once again, and I have just enough down time today to reflect on this past year.  Free time is a bit of a rarity for me recently!

A lot of positive things have come to fruition this year.  “Dreamcatcher” was released in July (you can hear it here, or purchase the 2-CD set here hint hint).  I’m very proud of the work and the recording, and now I’m itching to dive into another large scale work.  I can’t thank trombonist Haim Avitsur and conductor Ovidiu Marinescu enough for their efforts.

I’ve also heard the preliminary edits for “Woman A/Part,” due out next May on the newest Trio Casals CD.  The trio (Sylvia Ahramjian, violin; Ovidiu Marinescu, cello; and Anna Kislitsyna, piano) did yet another amazing job, and I’m incredibly pleased with the result.  I can’t share the artwork or title with you just yet – it hasn’t been officially announced – but the folks at Parma Recordings have done an outstanding job.  Look for the CD release in May, along with another concert in New York City.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a new work for the Vision of Sound New Music and Dance Festival, coming up in early April.  I’ve been partnered with choreographer Christina D’Amico, and I can’t wait to see what she does with the new piece!

On the performance end of things, I’m still playing with Samba Laranja.  As a matter of fact, we have been in the recording studio recently, working on yet another CD which should be released in 2018.  This is the fourth CD for this group.  I’m also still part of the Central New York Flute Choir, playing my wonderful contrabass flute.  The CNY Flute Choir held a workshop this year, as well as putting on several concerts, including the premiere of J.C. Dist, written by Jelle Hogenhuis (who made my contrabass flute), and which I transcribed and arranged.

I’m also continuing in my role with the Syracuse Opera, translating and projecting the supertitles, as well as jumping into a new role presenting the pre-show interviews with the stage and musical directors.  This is a great way for the audience to get a bit of insight into each opera before the curtain rises.

Things are still going strong at the radio station as well.  I’ve had some really fun interviews (including my chat with Anne Akiko Meyers, who was incredibly warm and charming).  Feminine Fusion is also doing well, and gaining more and more listeners every week.  It’s been over a year now, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store.

And so, as we get ready to turn the calendar over once again to ring in the new year, I’ll take just a moment to thank everyone who has touched my life in 2017, and look toward a 2018 filled with music and joy.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

MCAB3944

Marching in the Westcott Street Cultural Fair Parade with Samba Laranja

IMG_7509

Trio Casals rehearsing “Woman A/Part” before the New York premiere

Diane Jones and the Central New York Flute Choir

Performing with the Central New York Flute Choir

P1450020

Interview with Anne Akiko Meyers at WCNY

 

Advertisements

And the Calendar Takes Another Turn

I admit, I’ve been neglecting my blog.  It’s been an incredibly busy year, and I haven’t had a lot of time to reflect.  But it’s New Year’s Day, and I’m fighting the start of a cold, so it seems the perfect opportunity to take it easy and catch up on a few things.  Including the blog.

There has been a lot of music this year.  I’ve (finally) turned over the trombone concerto to Haim and Ovidiu.  It’s called “Dreamcatcher,” and although it is technically a single movement, it has three very distinct and different sections.  They’ll be travelling to Moscow in a couple of weeks to record most of the works for the upcoming CD, and I can’t wait to hear it.  I won’t be travelling with them, but I will be at the recording session via Skype, so it’ll definitely be a new experience for me!

Now that the score and parts are completed and handed over, I can admit that it was a daunting project for me!  This was my first foray into orchestral composition, and it was a little overwhelming at times.  But I did work my way through it, and I am very proud of the result.  I’m ready and eager to take on more large-scale works, so bring ’em on!

As for other works from this year, I already talked about “Elemental Suite” and “Woman A/Part” in a previous post.  I’m hoping to revisit “Woman A/Part” again this year, in order to expand it into something much more substantial.  I’m also in the midst of transcribing a work for Contrabass Flute with Flute Choir called “J.C. Dist” by Jelle Hogenhuis, who made my contrabass flute, as well as working on another flute choir work with a contrabass solo.  If all goes well, we’ll work on those for the spring concerts with the Central New York Flute Choir.

I’m also very excited that Trio Casals has included “Three Songs” into some of their programming, and have plans to include it on at least 2 more concerts.  You can hear it in Lewes, DE in March, and in Cazenovia, NY in July.  (Details on dates, times, and venues are all available at my website.)

I’m also in the early planning stages of a collaborative project that I’m very excited about.  We’re not ready to present any details about it yet, but I will absolutely keep you up to date as things progress.  

And what else has kept me so busy?  Well, working a 40 hour week at the radio station, of course.  After so many years of absolute freedom in dictating my own schedule, it’s been an adjustment.  But I love going to work every day, getting my hands deep into so much classical music, hearing new releases of new and old works.  I’ve also discovered that I really love doing interviews!  I’m bringing in folks almost every single week to talk about their work in the arts, and sometimes give us a short performance.  It is an absolute blast getting to chat with so many artists, both local and national!  And working on my weekly show, Feminine Fusion, has been absolutely incredible!  It’s going well, and getting very good responses from listeners.  And I’m learning so much about other women in the classical music world, and their achievements and struggles.  It’s giving me a whole new level of respect for those who have led the way in the arts community.

Let’s not forget performing, either.  I’m still a regular member of Samba Laranja, and the Central New York Flute Choir.  And, at the moment, I’m also filling in as second flute with the Onondaga Civic Symphony Orchestra, for their February concerts.  And I still translate and run the supertitle slides for the Syracuse Opera Company.  Add in the non-musical activities that I hope to do this year (dog agility, regular rides on my trike, cheering/heckling my husband during his cyclecross races, just to name a few) and it’s definitely going to be a busy 2017!

So, before I wrap up this entry, let me give you my sincere hope that your 2017 is filled with music and joy!  

When Things Come Together

It’s an exciting time!  Rehearsals for the 2014-15 concert season have started, the Brazilian ensemble has had two performances in the last week, with two more scheduled for this week.  The flute choir repertoire is set after our reading session last week, and rehearsals start in earnest next week.

And CDs!

Last night I got a copy of the (nearly) final master for the upcoming Samba Laranja CD, featuring my work, Travels.  I am so privileged to have been involved not only in the recording of Travels, but in both performing and giving artistic input on the rest of the CD as well.  The last CD won a SAMMY – and honestly, this one is sounding even better.

Which has raised my excitement level for the new Trio Casals CD as well!  I’m working closely with the sound engineers at PARMA right now, to get Three Songs sounding just perfect.  (Not a difficult job, really, given the incredible performances by Trio Casals!)  Now I realize what a difference it will make when I can hear it in context with the rest of the CD.  I’m even more excited to hear the full master!

It’s also exciting – and a bit nervewracking – to watch the Indiegogo funding campaign.  With just 18 days left, I haven’t quite hit the 20% funding mark.  So here it is, another request for you to check out the campaign and make your contribution.  Then share it with your friends and family, and ask them to support it as well.

Trio Casals: Sylvia Ahramjian, violin, Anna Kislitsyna, piano, & Ovidiu Marinescu, 'cello

Trio Casals: Sylvia Ahramjian, violin, Anna Kislitsyna, piano, & Ovidiu Marinescu, ‘cello

 

Still not sure if you want to support a new and untried work?  That’s understandable.  And so I encourage you to read this article from Minnesota Public Radio.

Three Songs Re-launch

I love September.  In many ways, it feels like a re-birth to me.  Rehearsals start up again for Samba Laranja and the CNY Flute Choir.  The concert season begins in earnest for most music and arts organizations.  Days are breezy, nights are wonderfully cool, leaves are showing the first signs of turning.  It’s as though everyone and everything is pausing just enough to catch a deep breath.

Sure, August ended on a low note.  But I took my own deep breath last weekend, and now I feel re-energized and ready to push ahead once more.

That’s why I’ve launched another campaign to raise funds for my Three Songs, this time on Indiegogo.  Once again, I’m starting from scratch, but I am much more confident this time around.  I’ve learned a lot, and I expect I’ll be better able to spread the word to not only the folks who tried to back me the last time (and hopefully will renew that backing!), but to an even broader audience. 

I’ve said it before, and it’s not news – making new music available to a broad audience takes resources – monetary resources.  Recording, publishing, performers and performance spaces, publicity – all of this comes at a cost.  No matter how frugal I am, it won’t happen for free, especially considering this is much more than a simple CD release.  The enhanced CD includes extra digital content (scores, liner notes, interviews), and the whole process culminates in two live performances, one in New York and the other in Philadelphia.  Believe me, every single dollar is being stretched to its limit!

As for the actually fundraising, this time around I’m concentrating even more on sharing my music with you.  I’ve added several music videos to my Vimeo page for you.  And I’ve given you a little more insight into the inspiration behind the Three Songs in my Indiegogo video, in the hopes it will inspire you to fund these Three Songs

I’ll also be giving you more blog and Facebook entries, and I would love to hear from you with any questions or thoughts you may have.  The smallest funding level is just $1, which means our conversation can start with, “Thank you so much for your support!”

Learning How to Ask

I discovered something during my time in public radio.  I’m pretty good at begging for money!

Twice a year we had a pledge drive, and teamed up in pairs to ask our listeners to pledge their support to the station.  We had hourly goals, and almost every time, whether I was the host or the “pledge buddy,” we’d meet our goal.  Even though I’ve left the station, I still go back twice a year to help at pledge time.  At this point, I’m the only non-employee still “buddy-ing” on the air, so I must be doing something they like!

Asking for money to support someone else is surprisingly easy.  Support classical music on public radio, support cancer research, support your local animal shelter.  But what happens if I ask for money for myself?

I squirm, I apologize, I expect to be turned down.  I feel inadequate, as though I shouldn’t even be asking.

In all honesty, though, getting your music heard takes resources, and the most valuable resource is money.  As a composer, money is what allows me to fairly compensate musicians, to reserve recording space, to publish scores (or hire someone to do these things), and bring in enough income to allow me the time to compose.

This has been a good year for me so far.  I have two very different works coming out on two separate CDs, and the time I’ve spent in the recording studio on each of them has been phenomenal.

It’s also helped me learn how to ask.  I’ve always been so thrilled (and a little surprised) that anyone is performing my music, that I tend to take whatever they give me.  But this time around, I’m listening to each piece critically, and asking the performers to give me a little more of this, or a little less of that.  And I’ve discovered that it not only makes for a better performance, but strengthens the composer/musician relationship as we explore the nuances of the work together.

All of this has given me the confidence to ask just a little bit more.  While one of the CDs this year is being completely funded by the performing ensemble, the other is a collaborative work.  I’ve written a new piano trio for Trio Casals called Three Songs.  The CD is a collection of works, and is being coordinated through PARMA Recordings.  They have a team of talented people who bring so much to the table, which means it is well worth the price to bring an enhanced CD out with national distribution.  Frankly, they have much better resources, and can do far more for me than I could ever do on my own.

So, to help me cover the cost of my share, I’ve jumped in with both feet and started a Kickstarter campaign.  After asking on behalf of others for many years, I’m finally comfortable asking for myself.

There are two things in particular that I like about Kickstarter.  The first is that it’s all or nothing funding.  If the goal is met, the project is funded, and if not, well, no one will be out any money at all.  The second thing is that you’re funding something specific – full production of an enhanced CD, and two live performances.  And in return, I am able to give you something tangible – my music, in several forms.

And now, I’m asking you to help me.  Check out the Kickstarter campaign.  If you can’t contribute financially (and let’s face it, money is tight for all of us!), you can still help by spreading the word to your family and friends.

(In case you missed it earlier – here’s the link to the Kickstarter campaign.  Share and enjoy!  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1763978672/three-songs-for-trio-casals)

The Year So Far

Why so long between posts?  Well, it’s been a busy 2014 so far, and it’s looking to get busier!

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to participate in some great collaborations so far this year.  In March, Rob Bridge and Jennifer Vacanti shared their percussion skills in premiering “Rhythmody” for Vision of Sound.  They gave three performances, accompanying the dancers of Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell’s studio, and I was fortunate to be there for all of it.

Meanwhile, I had my second opportunity to work with the students at West Genesee Middle School.  Again, I collaborated with the 8th grade band students to compose a brand new work, which they premiered earlier this month.  I have to say, this is one of my favorite collaborations!  Martha Grener, the wonderfully talented band director, is a joy to work with, and she encourages enthusiasm and welcomes all input from her students.  Once again, we left the naming of the work to the students, who revealed the title at the premiere performance.  What a great performance of “The Hour of the Raven.”

I also had the chance to spend quite a bit of time in the studio, working on the next Samba Laranja CD (due out this fall).  My world drumming piece, “Travels,” will be included in this release, and I am very grateful to Josh and Dr. Elisa Dekaney for giving me the opportunity to compose for this ensemble once again.

In the midst of all of this – yet another CD in the works!  Ovidiu Marinescu of Trio Casals contacted me early this year to ask for a new piece.  They are recording a new CD for PARMA Recordings, and my newly composed “Three Songs” will be a part of it!  We are all set for a July recording session, with the CD release and live tour set for next year.  (Ahem – look for my Kickstarter campaign very soon!)

As for the “next thing” – I have several pieces in the works, and will update you on those as time passes.  I am also working on the last few details before offering my works for direct sale on my website.

Defining “Music”

I took a class my sophomore year of college on “World Music.”  The first question the professor asked the class was “What is music?”  What a discussion that turned out to be!

You would think that would be an easy question, right?  I mean, we all know what “music” is, don’t we?

After that discussion, I’m not so sure we do.

Take the Islamic call to prayer, for example.  Absolutely beautiful!  But, in my understanding, according to doctrine it is not considered music.  It is chant, it is expression of a religion, but it is not music.  To a non-practitioner, however, it sounds quite musical.

Of course, there is also the John Cage school of thought – that everything is, or can be considered, music.  His most well-known example of this, of course, is 4′ 33″.  Everything heard during the performance becomes the music.

Then we have this work from John Stump.  Absolutely unplayable, but, in fact, accurately notated.  Although it was intended as satire, it begs the question: must a work be heard in order to be considered music?  Or is notation sufficient?  (Are you beginning to realize the complexity of that oh-so-simple question, “what is music?”)

And once we define “music,” how are we to categorize it?  In Western music, there is a lot of borrowing, sharing, and paraphrasing which serves to blur the lines between one genre and the next.

As to what has brought up this line of thought right now, I was recently asked by someone if I consider a pop song that has been arranged into a large orchestral work to be “classical music.”  Contrariwise, if an opera singer records a pop song, does that suddenly become a classical work?  (“And now, Dame Joan Sutherland sings Rod Stewart!”  Thanks for that image, Robin Williams!)  I mean, if I re-arranged the national anthem with slide guitar and sang it with a Tennessee accent, would it be a country song?

While we can point to characteristics of Western music that put it into categories such as “Renaissance,” “Baroque,” “Classical” or “Romantic,” when it comes to 20th and 21st century works, all bets are off.  The rules have been thrown out the window, and the range of music is far-reaching.  (That’s why I’m not crazy about the term “Contemporary Classical.”  It seems a throwback of sorts.)

So, does the national anthem become a country song?  Or just a bad arrangement?  Is the orchestral arrangement of Chubby Checker’s “Twist Again” as effective as the original?  Is “Beatles Baroque” clever or just annoying?  Is “Billy the Kid” better with 2 pianos or full orchestra?

Lots of questions.  And frankly, I don’t have any answers for you.

By the way, at the end of the semester in our World Music class, the only thing we did agree on is that we couldn’t agree on an acceptable definition of “music.”