The Noise: Part Two - Work-In-Progress!

This post is part of a series for students of the Pittsburg State University Wind Ensemble, who will be premiering my new work, The Noise, in April 2019 - for two voices and wind ensemble, directed by Andrew Chybowski. Featured singers will be Stella Hastings and Patrick Howle.



My very professional workspace, while I'm in the process
of acquiring some gear/space for a studio.
You've already received the second and third movements, and will (hopefully) be reading the first and last movements soon!

I've had a few great conversations and feedback with members from the ensemble, and I am excited to be implementing your ideas in the piece! Some of you have had less-interesting parts so far, and I made an effort to give those people something more interesting to do in the first and/or last movements. 

The videos your director has sent me are already sounding pretty good! I can't wait to come clinic the piece next week and hear everything in person. 

A lot of times I end up changing things after the rehearsal process begins, and by working with musicians we all end up feeling great about the piece, and also as if it belongs to everyone involved - not just me. I welcome feedback on things that work, things you like, things you'd like changed, etc. While I can't rewrite everything, it is always fun tweaking moments throughout a piece in rehearsal to really polish off the work!

The Artistic Process:

From a recent performance of my work, Interplay, inspired by the paintings of
Ian Davenport. This performance featured new choreography by the locally-
based dance company, Bruce Wood Dance, at the Dallas Contemporary art
museum - it was an amazing evening of art, music, and movement!
PC: Tamytha Cameron Photography
Your director and both vocal faculty have been SO patient with me as I play catch up from a long month of premieres, performances, workshops, other projects, and a brief-but-intense trip to the ER!

I'm not sure how much you were all told about the latter, but I will say this about my experience:

-Know where your health insurance is accepted and where it is not. Our healthcare system is pretty badly broken and needs to be changed, but in the meantime you have to make sure you're informed about where you can go when you need to be seen! I ended up driving back across the Texas state line from Oklahoma to an urgent care and two different ERs (for a total of about 40 miles of driving) before I found one that could take my insurance, all while having massive, inexplicable pains in my abdomen. 0/10 would not recommend.

-SLEEP. EAT. GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO UNWIND. While a more formal diagnosis is still pending, I was found to have *several* ulcers. These were the direct result of not taking better care of myself the past few weeks - pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines, skipping meals or eating trash because I didn't have/make the time to cook properly, constantly worrying about everything I had to do, and never taking a break. These are habits left over from school, and while academia can definitely reward such self-destructive behavior, your mind and body ultimately suffer for it in the long run. It's not new advice, but - especially for creative artists, who are generally working *always* and not just 9-5 - it is SO important. Eat. Drink water. Sleep. Stretch.

When I'm super stressed out, I try to sneak of to The Nature
for a bit of a break from everything. This was my
favorite spot to visit when I was in school
(Yellowood State Park).
-S*** happens - it's okay to ask for help. I'll be completely candid with you: the piece is almost done, but it is not finished yet. I've had to ask for extensions, same as any composer (though some may never tell you they've needed one), and while it does make the anxious voice in my head cackle with delight at all the things it gets to make we worry about in relation to that, I also know that I would much rather take the extra time. I was only able to start eating solid food again a few days ago, and in the interim I've had to lean on friends, colleagues, and family for things I'm use to doing myself. I've hated every minute of it, but it has also allowed me to realize that I don't *have* to do everything on my own. Just like this piece, I'm also a work-in-progress. While you don't want to constantly inconvenience or let down everyone you work with, s*** happens. Ask for help.

Composing Tidbit

From my sketchbook - I often only use the first
letter of each word when I'm sketching out text
ideas. This helps save space, but it also allows 
me to see what sounds will start each attack,
 so I can play with the consonant sounds and 
find patterns faster.
I have gotten questions before about how I go about text-setting, and thought I'd share just a little bit of my process here. When I work with a smaller ensemble, I tend to write the voice parts at the same time as the rest of the instruments - I like developing the lyrical material organically from within the ensemble when possible. With larger groups, like this one, however, it doesn't always work that way.

This piece was extra challenging for me, as I needed to get music to the voice faculty more quickly than to the ensemble, so I had to write the voice parts (with a piano reduction) *first.* To do this, I basically had five steps:
  • Set the rhythm of the text
  • Craft melodies/motives using those rhythms
  • Compose an accompaniment
  • Orchestrate
  • Change the accompaniment because I ended up doing something different when I orchestrated
There is no one/right way to do this, but I found that - especially for the first movement, which had a lot of "patter" (fast singing/talking), setting the rhythm first really helped give the rest of the composition focus. I don't know if I'll do it this way again, but it's been a really interesting experience trying something so different from my normal process.

That's all for now! Looking forward to meeting you all soon and hearing more of your thoughts!


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