My New Reality Show

I’ve often thought of pitching a reality show that follows a composer around in their day-to-day activities.  I mean a real reality show, with the person in the career they had long before the reality show started.  Something you know they’ll still be doing long after it ends.

Then I realize what the show would really be.  A lot of this…image

interspersed with a bit of that…image

not to mention…image

Of course, you’d also see some of this…image

followed by…image

Yeah.  The day-to-day reality of composing is not all that exciting to watch.  Although, truth be told, day-to-day life for most of us is pretty low key.

Still, there are exciting moments.  And some very busy weeks!  Take these last two weeks, for example.  I’ve been working with the 8th grade keyboard classes at Ed Smith School almost every day as part of a composition residency there.  This is an opportunity for these kids to help create a new piece for premiere in May.  Add to that a performance for a local charity organization (that ultimately led to a severe case of laryngitis for me), one at a semi-annual flute showcase, nine rehearsals, and one more performance (two sets) at another local elementary school just this morning.

And in between, of course, more of this…image

There are definitely a few more weeks of that coming up.  And then another whirlwind of activity in May!

But even without the whirlwinds, I think this show could really sell!  Just look at this program.



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!”

Rights and Responsibilities in the Arts

The recent events in Libya, including the death of the US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, have left me contemplating the power of the arts.

Make no mistake . . . from what I have read about the anti-Islamic film that prompted the attack on the embassy, it has one main purpose: to incite anger and unrest.  (For the record, I have not watched the film, and have no desire to do so.)  But I also have a strong suspicion that the filmmaker will eventually defend his actions by citing his First Amendment rights, and cry “Foul!  Censorship!” and whatever else he can think of.  The First Amendment guarantees our right to freedom of expression.  It does not address the wisdom of how we exercise that right.

But this also prompts a larger question in my own mind.  What is the responsibility of an artist?  It is said that art holds a mirror up to the world, and the artist should be unafraid to show the world as it is.  Often, art (in any form) is the most effective way to shine a light on injustices or social issues that would otherwise be overlooked or worse, suppressed.  In many countries, artists were and are imprisoned or even killed for their artistic dissent.  Yet they still persevere.

There is another responsibility that comes with one’s art, however, and that is some level of personal responsibility for the effect it has.  One can easily declare that it is “my art,” and people can take it or leave it as they wish.  It is very true that you cannot always anticipate how an individual or group may react to what you have created.  But what happens when you create a work of art with full knowledge and understanding that it is inflammatory?

Any work that attacks a specific religion is, pretty much by definition, inflammatory.  Some of the longest and bloodiest wars are waged in the name of religion.  So to knowingly attack a religion – any religion – opens the possibility of a reaction, and a potentially violent one.  (If you poke a bear with a stick, don’t be surprised when it knocks you to the ground and starts gnawing on your head.)

I am not suggesting that art should be censored.  If it moves you, if it has intent, then bring your fullest ability to your art.  Along with your intent, however, you must also bring an understanding of your personal responsibility for that art.

The film that prompted the attack on the US Embassy in Libya was, by all accounts, knowingly inflammatory.  The filmmaker poked the bear, and the bear struck back with a vengeance.  Problem is, the bear didn’t attack the filmmaker, it attacked the closest thing that resembled him.

And the filmmaker?  He’s in hiding, giving out a pseudonym, hoping the bear doesn’t find him.  In other words, utterly avoiding responsibility for what he has created.

As a citizen of the United States, I have the freedom and the right to create my art as I see fit.  That right is guaranteed by the constitution.  As a thoughtful and caring person, I need to understand the ramifications of my actions.  Am I willing to accept responsibility for the consequences (good or bad) I might encounter?  And am I willing to accept the responsibility for the consequences (good or bad) others may encounter as a result of my actions?  If the answer to both questions is “yes,” then I should create what I want to create.  But if the answer to either is “no,” then I need to think carefully about my creation.  I cannot, in good conscience, “poke the bear” and then simply run away.

How about you?  Are you willing to take full responsibility for your art?