In (Re)Focus

2016 had just better watch out
2015 was certainly a crazy year - including premieres of new works for a live-performed film score, a dance collaboration with trash instruments, Thump's re-vamped and fully staged premiere with a full orchestra, a new work for string quartet, a month at IRCAM in Paris, France (with more trash instruments), a new work for solo harp, Big-Ass Moth!'s newest edition performed in Canada and in Bloomington, and a new work for viola and piano (written in just three weeks for a concert featuring only female composers!) made it one of the busiest, most stressful, most productive, and most rewarding years I've had. 

And 2016 doesn't show many signs of slowing down!

Current Project News:

SO MANY PROJECTS. Very excited to be working on all of these, all of which are scheduled to be wrapped up within a month from now!! Part of what makes all three of these projects exciting is that they are all very collaborative works; collaborating directly with performers, directors, stage designers, and other creative minds is at once humbling and inspiring. I feel honored to be working so closely with such a wide array of people!

I met these two Luther alumns at a concert,
both of whom write incredible vocal music.
The one of the right (Dylan Carlson) has written
music for a production of Macbeth before, so it
was great getting to hear some of his
insights and ideas!
The Scottish Electroacoustic Surround-Sound Experience 3000

The IU Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance will be presenting Macbeth as part of their official 2015-2016 season, and I've been working with them to create original music and sound for their production!! Working with the director, David Koté, has been quite the learning experience. While I've had a pretty extensive background in the theatre, most of my experience has been with stage construction, lighting, and other "behind-the-scenes" work. Having written an operetta, worked with live performers and multiple dance groups, and even written for film has had little-to-no bearing on this type of collaboration!

The space we're working in is a black-box theatre, and I'll have about 12-channels to play with for spatialization - the staging is being done "in-the-round" (meaning audience members surrounding the stage area), lending itself a lot of opportunity for immersive, powerful effects, as well as individualized listening experiences for the audience. Having never worked in such a malleable sound environment, the movement of sound alone is already a new and exciting adventure!

The other unique aspect of this collaboration is that the entire score will be done with electronics - some of it fixed or cued media, some of it live-processing on actor voices, but no live instruments. Since theatre--rather unlike film--has such a flexible and ever-changing sense of pacing, timing, and energy, the score itself also must be adaptable to the action taking place on stage in real time. Certain sounds or movements have to be instigated by cues. This is the opposite of opera, where the staging is normally set to the timing of the music. 

It's been a crazy few weeks, but observing the rehearsals, listening to David Koté direct, and working with sound designer Tom Oldham has really made the process informative, engaging, and inspiring. The amount of time and energy the actors put into these productions is nothing short of awe-inspiring, and I'm so excited to be creating a sound world for their show.

If you're in the area (or feel like taking a trip to Bloomington), definitely come check out the show! Performance and ticket information can be found here.

Messing with the Minds of Middle School Children

She even gave me a thank-you card! The envelope reads:
Kim Osberg - "Composer Extraordinaire!"
Returning to Eau Claire, Wisconsin during the winter break was the perfect opportunity to meet with band director, Laurie Francis, to go over the commission premiering in April for her final concert. Mrs. Francis was my band director in middle school, and one of the first important musical influences, so it has been such a fulfilling experience working on this piece for her! 

Some of the sketches for the aleatory I'd
like to have the middle-schoolers try

As we were talking about the kind of piece she wanted, we both agreed that exposing her students to some aleatoric and non-traditional elements would be a great way to challenge and engage them during their final semester at the middle school (this particular band is comprised of eighth-graders). As part of this experience, Ms. Francis has asked me to come workshop these sections with her students part way through the semester. Getting to work with middle school students on things like key-clicks, interpreting independent "box gestures" (where they can choose one of several motives within a given frame of time), unmetered music, and listening to one another during such terrifying, exciting, extremely risky, and something I've always wanted to do.

It's hard to say how the students are going to respond to the sounds I'm asking them to do during these sections, but I'm hopeful that enough of them are going to have open minds - or at least be excited about doing something different than any of the other music they've looked at thus far. 

While the piece is scheduled for performance in April, young bands take quite a bit of time to learn new music, so we've agreed the piece needs to be done sometime mid-February. More on this piece to come, I'm sure!

A Suite-A** Concert on the Horizon

Among all of this, I'm still working on adding movements to Big-Ass Moth! and it's been tricky. Flute and Clarinet are a deceptively difficult pair to write for at times, particularly when you have so many options when working with players as talented as Robin Meiksins and Emily Mehigh. Fat-Ass Robin is finally starting to take shape after I moved the piece into a more melody-accompaniment direction (which will be a nice contrast to the other two movements), but I still have a lot of work to do in order to get the piece ready by the end of the month! 

Robin's M.M. recital is in March, and it promises to be a rather popular event this semester - a lot of new works, and she plays for so many people throughout the year - so I am extremely grateful to have landed a piece as the final work on what will be a truly amazing concert. 

Competition News:

It's difficult to stay too anxious
when the snow is looking so
lovely (outside of shoveling...)
As many of you read, I was nominated by the faculty at IU to represent the Jacobs School as an applicant for the American Opera Initiative. If selected by AOI, I would get to have a new 20-minute work premiered at the Kennedy Center, and even be considered for an hour-long production by the Washington National Opera. It is a huge honor to even be nominated by the department - we have about 55 composers, and more than half are graduate students this year - but the competition is stiff. 15 schools are solicited for nominations across the country, and includes programs like Julliard, Yale, and Peabody. 

The official announcement arrives on January 15th, and I'm dying a little bit each day waiting to hear which three composers they've selected. 

The other competition I've applied for is the USA International Harp Composition Competition. Their announcement is scheduled for January 30th, so that is equally gut-wrenching! This year they had about 111 submissions from over 30 different countries, and that's all we've heard on the matter so far. 

Luckily, I have so many projects due in the next few weeks, I shouldn't lose too much sleep over these dates - I'll just lose it over the projects, instead!