Composition Submission Tracking

As it turns out, there are quite a few composition contests, calls for scores, conferences, and other opportunities available to composers each year. And, following the advice of Eric Whitacre, I try to submit things as often as I can. But I kept falling into this pattern:

  1. Find a contest.
  2. Prepare everything for the contest.
  3. Let the paperwork sit on my desk until deadline has passed.
  4. Repeat.

This obviously didn’t work that well for me. So at the beginning of this academic year, I decided to try something new. I thought, if I can somehow automate (or nearly automate) the contest submission process, then I’ll be spending less time sending off compositions (or rather, less time not sending off compositions) and more time composing. Or watching police procedurals. Or both! So I built HOE.


The Hammer Opportunity Engine or HOE is essentially a composer’s to-do list on steroids. It tracks composition opportunities, which pieces to send, whether the deadlines are postmark or receipt, and it prints the mailing and return address labels, all coded with QR codes. It plugs into Hammer’s composition database (which drives so new compositions are added automatically. And it basically reminds me incessantly when submissions are coming due.

While I’m sure I could go on about how HOE works, it’s probably more interesting to talk about what I’ve learned by using it. Here’s a list of things in no particular order:

  1. The system actually works. Since using HOE, I’ve won the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival Student Composers Competition (BCMFSCC?) and was selected to have Creatures from the Black Bassoon performed at ICMC2012. (which means travel to Memphis and Slovenia, both of which are famous for their barbecue. Or I might have made part of that up.)
  2. Anything looks more legit with a well-placed QR code and a logo.
  3. I’ve sent out ~40 submissions this year, rather than the 2-4 I usually send.
  4. A good chunk of contests don’t respond when they’ve picked winners, which means they sit in a “submitted” state until you search for them.
  5. Contest fees range from the free to the astronomical. The reasonable amount I pay is somewhere between the two.
  6. EasyChair is kind of a ridiculous service, though it seems to work.

So there it is. My programming geekiness meets my composerlyness.

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Creatures from the Black Bassoon to be presented at the 2012 International Computer Music Conference

So I woke up to this email yesterday morning:

Dear Kyle Vanderburg,
The Program Committee worked very hard to thoroughly review all the submitted pieces, and we want to apologize for the late announcement.

On behalf of the ICMC 2012 Music Program Committee, we are delighted to inform you that your submission:

Creatures from the Black Bassoon

has been accepted to appear as part of this year Music Program.


-Please make sure to register and finish the payment by June 10th, at:

-For the works with multiple authors, at least one author of your work must be registered for the conference by the early registration deadline of June 10th. Please include all the authors bio in case these was not include in the application.

-If your work involve acoustic instrument(s), and you had request local performer(s), you most send all the scores and parts by June 1st, through e-mail. to

-All the Piece+Paper must be registered for the conference by the early registration deadline of June 10th, for the paper to be included in the proceedings. A paper without early registration will not be published.

Congratulations on your fine work. If you have any additional questions, please let us know.

Looking forward to see you in Ljubljana!
Best wishes,
Mauricio Valdés, Steven Loy, Gregor Pompe ICMC 2012 Music Chairs

———————– REVIEW 1 ———————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
AUTHORS: Kyle Vanderburg

OVERALL RATING: 2 (accept)
Artistic Merit: 5 (high)
Technical Quality: 5 (high)
Feasibility of Performance: 5 (high)

There is a great balance between instrumental sounds, processed sounds and natural-like sounds, all within a frame of great structural coherence. Very nice work, I strongly recommend this piece.

———————– REVIEW 2 ———————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
AUTHORS: Kyle Vanderburg

OVERALL RATING: 2 (accept)
Artistic Merit: 3 (medium)
Technical Quality: 3 (medium)
Feasibility of Performance: 5 (high)

The most obvious aspect of this piece is that the material's source is very localized: bassoon's sounds, processed and unprocessed. The space between very naturalist sounds and electronic transformations is very large and involves an interesting risk: presenting easily recognizable sounds that will share a context with dramatically transformed sounds.

In this piece, the most naturalist sounds are often presented relatively detached, from an spatial point of view: they are in many occasions almost not reverberated, keeping, naturally, a high presence and thus proximity feeling for the listener. Sometimes (I think for example on 07'15″) sounds (coming certainly from sounds made by the read alone) presents spatial trajectories accompanied by a very remarkable reverberation, too obvious in my opinion.

Those are examples showing that the problem of integrating natural sounds (that naturally carry their space's information, specially with sounds produced by a “double read” as the bassoon, should it be a similar issue with an oboe I can add) with dramatically transformed sounds is a complex question. The piece do not reach a global, coherent and homogeneous solution, and has some problems of balance concerning the global formal profile, but has the undeniable merit to show the problem, to approach it carrying by the way interesting materials.

———————– REVIEW 3 ———————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
AUTHORS: Kyle Vanderburg

OVERALL RATING: 3 (strong accept)
Artistic Merit: 4 (medium high)
Technical Quality: 4 (medium high)
Feasibility of Performance: 4 (medium high)

The composer shows as that he knows different techniques and resources of acousmatic composition. The artistic result is very interesting and suggestive.

————————- METAREVIEW ————————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
Please read the reviewers notes.

So apparently I'm going to Slovenia in September. Surprise!

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What this year has taught me.

So, I've survived my first year of being a DMA student. That part, not that tough. What was far more difficult was deciding to stop writing acoustic music cold turkey, switch to electronic music completely, and spend an academic year writing mainly electronic pieces. That was surprisingly rough in a lot of different ways, and I think I'm in the unique position to offer the advice to anyone wanting to try it: Don't.

Don't what? Don't write electronic music?

That's not what I'm saying. Learning Pro Tools and Max and GRM Tools and this and that have been FANTASTIC. It forces you to listen to and think about sound in a totally different way (like doing improvised music), it stretches your mind in different directions, and it's a great academic exercise. What you shouldn't do is completely jettison one of your emotional outlets like writing acoustic music. If you've spent seven+ years writing notes, and then you switch to not writing notes, the changes will be evident. Or at least they were in my case. It has been like switching languages entirely, and not having the vocabulary to express your thoughts. And that has resulted in me watching a lot of TV instead of writing music.

Luckily I'm rebounding from that, and I do hope to eventually finish my marimba and tape piece, and I'll likely use some electronic element in my dissertation. But I'm returning to the world of notes soon.

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2nd grade music classes.

9:39:59 PM – John Case: i was ready to sleep around 7 lol… but i figured that was a bad idea
9:40:13 PM – Kyle Vanderburg: am or pm?
9:40:19 PM – John Case: pm
9:40:28 PM – John Case: i was up at 6ish
9:40:33 PM – Kyle Vanderburg: Ah. Ew.
9:40:46 PM – Kyle Vanderburg: ooh ah ah
9:40:52 PM – Kyle Vanderburg: ting tang walla walla bing bang.
9:41:04 PM – John Case: yes… dr eisenbart.
9:41:17 PM – Kyle Vanderburg: That's willa willa wit boom boom.
9:41:27 PM – John Case: oh my bad
9:41:45 PM – John Case: you can understand my confusion
9:41:49 PM – Kyle Vanderburg: Totally.

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Kyle Vanderburg