No JFund this time

Well this was not how I wanted to start my week.

Because I’m impatient, and because I happened to see on Google+ last week that the JFund applications were being reviewed, I checked out the American Composers Forum website this afternoon to see if the grant winners had been announced. They had. Last Wednesday. Which is a pretty sure sign that I got nothing. And that’s exactly what I got.

I’m honestly incredibly depressed by the news. I hadn’t felt so optimistic and confident about an application I’d sent out, well…ever. So this was a significant blow to the ego, especially given the subject matter of the piece and my personal stake in it.

But life will go on. It goes on with temporarily undermined confidence and a brief bout of depression, but it goes on. I’ve still got the MAP Fund Letter of Inquiry out there.

“The Gallant Weaver” for Choir

This evening I started a new arrangement of “The Gallant Weaver” for SATB choir and piano. The reason? There’s a choral composition competition (say that ten times fast) that I’d like to enter, and the deadline is Friday. I’ve been hemming and hawing over texts for ages, and this afternoon after a very busy day at the day job where I didn’t choose a text like I’d half-planned to do (“Look it up while you’re at work, instead of doing your work! Brought to you by the Internet Foundation.”), I decided to make life a little easier on myself and just arrange something from my existing catalog. “The Gallant Weaver” is ripe for the picking in this respect, and also happens to be one of my favorites of my own songs (don’t tell the others, though – we don’t want them getting jealous…).

So after a little walk in this beautiful warm weather, I dove into the arrangement and am already at the halfway mark. I should be able to finish the arrangement Wednesday evening, which makes me incredibly happy. It’s nice to add a new piece to my catalog, and to do it so quickly!

I’d have it done tomorrow, except that I’m meeting with Jeff Algera to make the final arrangements for the Tobenski-Algera Concert Series, which is effectively finished. However, part of our meeting is to deal with the funds leftover from our semi-season last year so that I can start a new series in the coming months very much like the T-A Concerts. The reason for the dissolution of the Series is that Jeff and his wife are moving to California next month, which will make continuing the Concerts in their current form very difficult. Obviously, Copland and Sessions managed to do it via post in the early ’30s while the latter lived in Paris, and it’s infinitely easier to communicate via Skype, but it’s time to change things up a bit, and Jeff’s life will certainly be taken up for quite a while with setting up his new life and web business on the West Coast.

I don’t normally write pieces specifically for competitions. In fact, I usually avoid those that require an unperformed, unpublished piece because I have so few of those. And as a self-published composer, I honestly can’t say that I have any unpublished pieces. As soon as I finish something, I slap the Tobenski Music Press logo on it, and throw it on my site and the NewMusicShelf. Everything I write is immediately considered to be published. But it’s not published by a “legacy publisher” (a nice term I came across to describe traditional publishers), which is certainly what is meant by the “no publication” rule. No danger of that ever happening – I don’t want a “legacy publisher”! (More on that some other time.) My other point of “meh”-ness is that the piece can’t be performed in the meantime, or submitted anywhere else. So, until August when the award winners are announced, this arrangement, which I’m so far very happy with, has to sit on my hard drive and twiddle its thumbs. But I guarantee that even though I can’t do anything with it in the meantime, it will be ready to go for the instant that the announcements are made. Of course, I’m certainly hoping that it has to sit on the shelf for another few months because it’s won the award and needs to be premiered by this organization!

Fingers crossed!

Little surprise

I got a nice little surprise yesterday afternoon. I took a little break from the third batch of DDT scanning (Pop-pourri through Vintage Alice), toddled downstairs to check the mail, and Lo! and Behold! An envelope from the Bursar’s office at CCNY. Unannounced, official-looking envelopes have, on occasion, a tendency to startle me. ‘What possibly could they want?’ was the first thing I thought. ‘I know for a fact that I’m completely paid up – otherwise they’d never have given me my diploma!’

It was rather a slim envelope, though. So, I opened it as I walked back up to my apartment. What should I find inside, but a check! No letter accompanied it, only the brief message: “External Scholarship”. Huh.

It was a nice bright spot in an otherwise indifferent past few months. Writing has been woefully slow, work has been non-forthcoming (including new web design clients, alas!), and most of my time is spent scanning David’s files.

I haven’t the foggiest idea why I’ve received this scholarship, or who decided that I should get it. But you can be sure that I’ll be sleuthing to find out who exactly it is that I should thank!

Playing catch-up

I’ve been a bad boy lately, and have been neglecting my bloggerly duties. This has mostly been due to the wrapping up of my academic career at CCNY. Last Monday, I passed the Oral Examination in music analysis, concluding my academic responsibilities at the school. And two weeks prior, I submitted my thesis (at least a moment). Today is, in fact, the Commencement Ceremony, which I happily forewent in favor of sitting home and getting some work done (and not paying nearly $100 for the cap/gown/sash/etc that I’ll only wear once, then stick in a closet somewhere and never look at again).

So after two (kinda long) years, I have a Master of Arts in Music. Now I can… do… stuff…. Ok, I knew going into it that it was another piece of paper for my mother to put in the safe where she keeps all the important family things. It allowed me to study with David, which was my primary goal (the remainder, I mostly saw as jumping through hoops). And it’s a stepping stone to the doctorate, which I intend to do in about five or six years. I’m in no hurry to start – I’m all schooled out for the time being. But the doctorate will allow me to teach when I’m good and ready (I’m thinking my mid-40s) so that I can have some kind of pension in my old age. Such a practical plan!

Now that I’m done, I can start to concentrate again on things that fell by the wayside during the past two years, namely the Tobenski-Algera Concerts. It’s now been over a year since the last T-A concert, and I’m none too happy about that fact. We’ve had a few abortive attempts at relaunching the Series, but any number of random obstacles got in the way: scheduling conflicts with performers, difficulties getting commissioned composers to actually write the pieces that were commissioned (another rant for another day!), and (not least) the “school mentality” I got into that slowed certain areas of my productivity/motivation to a crawl. But we’re currently planning a NYC Gay Pride Week concert as a follow-up to our 2007 concert, which was such a success. More details on that as everything coalesces.

Plus, there’s another art song concert in the works for the early fall, and a concert with the ensemble Percussia.

I can also start applying to colonies for times other than the Summer, when it’s nearly impossible to get in. I love art colonies, so it’s been painful not having the ability to go when I’d like to. Or, really, at all, since everybody and their brother applies for the summer sessions when nobody’s teaching, leaving no room for young’uns like me.

Performance-wise, I premiered Casey Hale’s “Todesfuge” on May 12 with pianist Mia Elezovic at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Elebash Hall. It was a fun performance, and I look forward to the opportunity to sing it again.

I also sang an orchestrated version of “Permanently” from at least a moment for the CCNY Musicians Accord readings. The orchestration was a little difficult to get started, I’ll admit. I found it incredibly difficult to distance myself from my initial harpistic conception of the piece. When I brought in a first draft to David, he spent the majority of that lesson more than a little angry at my horrible orchestration (though an hour later he was praising my orchestration of a MacDowell piano piece, proving my point that the problem was a matter of personal distance from the original piece). The final result, though, was quite nice: some great shifts in color, and good use of the tutti ensemble.

And compositionally, I’ve finished the first and second movements of the Glukh piece. End-of-semester business forced me to put the piece aside for a few weeks, so I’m picking it back up next week. I completely rethought the Fanfare movement, and the music just exploded out of me. I originally wanted a full-ensemble fanfare, but got mired in canonic silliness that killed the movement. So, I took a step back and noticed that I hadn’t used the violins at all in the Chorale Trio preceding the Fanfare. Why not write a fanfare for the two violins? It’s a fresh sound, and completely unexpected, as far as fanfares go! The thought that completely freed me up, though, was about timing – I had originally wanted each movement to be roughly 3 minutes. So, why not cut it down to one? A one-minute fanfare for two violins. Perfect! In a matter of days, I had finished the first draft of the movement, and I finished the revisions within a week. Now, I’m waiting to start the Aria, which will be for the full ensemble.

I’ll wrap up with a tiny rant. Yesterday, I got back my materials from one of the competitions I entered this Spring (none of which I even managed to place in, by the way). Now, I don’t put the competitions’ return addresses on my SASEs, so I’m not entirely sure which competition these materials were from, but based on the piece I sent, and the fact that the score was clearly an ‘anonymous submission’, I have a pretty darned good idea which competition this was from. I won’t name names, but I will say that it wasn’t one of the big ones. Now, I’ve heard a lot of composer friends complain endlessly about the way that competitions treat applicants’ materials. (Poorly.) And I’ve had more than one score come back bent, scuffed, or with stains that weren’t there when I mailed it off to be judged. But never before have I had part of my application disappear. I mailed off a score and a CD. The CD, I put in a nice little jewel case to keep it from getting scratched or broken en route. I got back the score and the CD, but not the jewel case. Did the jewel case get lost? Broken? Accidentally put in with someone else’s application? Or just stolen? Regardless, I don’t care. The fact that the jewel case was missing shows a real disregard for applicants’ materials. I paid to have that anonymous score printed and bound, I bought the blank CDs, CD labels, and jewel cases, spent around $10 in round-trip postage, and paid an entry fee for this competition. Not to mention the time I spent considering my application, compiling all of the materials, and standing in line forever at the post office to get the application mailed by the postmark deadline. I think I deserve to get all of my materials back in the same condition that I sent them in. If the postal service damages my materials en route, that’s between me and them, but when a piece of my application (specifically, the only piece I can even think of reusing, since an anonymous score is worthless and [I think] a complete waste of my money) doesn’t even make it into the return envelope that I provided, there’s a real problem. Rant over.

Ucross residency scheduled!

I’ve held off on the official announcement of this until everything was scheduled: I’ll be in residence at Ucross in Clearmont, WY from August 31 to September 25 this Fall.

In early 2008, I finished work on Ricky Ian Gordon’s website, and Ricky sent out a mass email announcing the completion of the project. One of the recipients of the email happened to be the president of the colony (Ricky is a regular visitor to Ucross, and composed the bulk of his recent opera The Grapes of Wrath there), who in turn looked at my website and noticed that I’d been in residency at the VCCA in March 2007. We began a brief correspondence, the result of which was an invitation to spend some time in the colony’s newest addition, a second composer’s studio.

Of course, I was overjoyed to be invited, and we tried to set up a time when I could come out for a month or so, but we discovered that the colony’s residency season didn’t jibe with my Fall school schedule unless my professors allowed me to miss a full month’s worth of classes. Fat chance of that! So we decided to postpone until Fall 2009.

We talked again in January, and discussed some potential residency dates. Just yesterday, I got word that the dates I requested were approved (they apparently had been months ago, but emails got lost in inboxes etc, as happens often in life), so in late August, I’ll be off to Wyoming!

I expect that while I’m in residence, I’ll work on an orchestral piece. I’m often (insert adverb here) reminded that my catalog lacks a work for orchestra, at which I roll my eyes, and say, “I know, I know! Sheesh!” (But the reasons for all this are best left for another post on another day.) So let it be known here and now that I intend to have an orchestral work in my catalog by the end of the year – probably by the end of September.

Travel will be interesting (and none too cheap, incidentally!). Apparently, I’ll have a layover in Denver, where I hop onto a tiny plane to Sheridan, WY. I had a similar travel plan on my way to the VCCA, where I flew to Charlotte, NC and boarded a teensy plane – the kind where you actually walk out onto the runway, and there are only 12 seats! As soon as I sat down on the plane, I whipped out my cell and called home, “It has a propeller!”

And because I’ve – save for a brief trip into Iowa ages ago – never been west of the Mississippi (it would be poetic and satisfying to say that this is because I’m an East Coast, effete blah blah blah, except that I spent the first 22 years of my life in the cornfields of Illinois, so bang goes that idea!), I figure that since my residency ends on a Friday, and I’m flying into Denver anyway, I’ll spend a long weekend poking around the Mile High City, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds. Any great events going on in late September that I should know about?