Several things that are bouncing around my head these days:
First off, let’s talk about the summer schedule. Hopefully this will be a productive working summer. But in between that work, some interesting projects:
For ten days in June, I’ll be in NYC to help run the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF). I don’t have a piece on the festival this year, I’m just working. That should help me get my mixing, troubleshooting, and gaff-taping fix for the year.
The first week in July, I’ll be teaching Audio Technology at the International Music Camp. Lots of firsts for that one—first time at the International Peace Gardens, first time teaching at IMC, first time using Cubase…
At the beginning of August, I’ll be presenting a paper on composition program curricula at the Aspen Composers Conference. A few days later, I’ll be teaching a seminar on recording technology at NDSU’s Music Education Summer Symposium.
Next: Social media. Ugh. I’ve never really liked it. I feel like I always have to be “On” to use it—as in, everything I post has to be amusing or witty or something more than “I’m eating a sandwich.” I’ve long suspected that it’s the cause of most of our recent societal problems. As I teach freshmen every year, my believe that being constantly catered to by algorithms isn’t healthy. And my recent reading list hasn’t helped things.
Now, I haven’t gotten out the tinfoil hat and I’m not saying that I agree with everything I’ve just listed. But these things have been on my mind for a while.
This is part of a larger thing I’m going through right now, where I’m realizing that I don’t have to be good at everything. I’m not good at contributing to social media (and consuming it isn’t good for me) and that’s okay.
I’m not good at email either, but that’s a project and a story for another day.
This leads me to my third thing—the scarcity mindset. This came up in Beyond Talent earlier in Entrepreneurship this spring, and it struck the students (and me) differently than usual. For much of grad school and my early academic career, I’d say “Yes” to whatever project or job came my way. And this never really stopped—even though I have full-time employment and several side projects, every time I see a job posting I think “OOH! I could do that too!” Not “instead.” “Too.”
Diversification and risk management are good things, but there’s a point of diminishing returns where you’re spread too thin. I just need to calm down and focus on the plates that are already spinning.
OOH! Or I could go back to school to become a CPA!
It’s turning out to be a busy semester! I’m teaching a couple of new-to-me classes—Music Research and Bibliography for the grad students and the Symphonic Literature for both grads and undergrads. These are paired with my normal Music Entrepreneurship, the bassoon part of Woodwind Methods II, and a studio of 13 composers.
Let’s talk about performances. I’ve recently updated the calendar, here’s what’s in store!
February 13: Kelly Burns, Cassie Keogh, and Tyler Wottrich premiere my Letters to the Poetry Editor that came about from my work with the NDSU Press.
March 5-6: We’ll present Letters to the Poetry Editor at the College Music Society Central Conference in Omaha. I’ll also be presenting a paper on composer workflow.
The next weekend, March 11-12, I’ll be in Oklahoma for the College Music Society South Central Conference, where Tempest in a Teakettle will be performed.
March 24-26, I’ll be in St. Petersburg, Florida for the Contemporary Art Music Project’s CAMPGround22, where Tape Piece will be performed.
April 21-23, we’re hosting a new music festival at NDSU, including a couple of concerts as part of our Unity concert series, and then a student and faculty (that’s me!) composers’ recital on the 23rd.
May 1, the NDSU Faculty Woodwind Quintet will play Course of Empire as part of the Fargo Moorhead Symphony Orchestra chamber series.
Oh, also at some point this semester, the New Rockford-Sheyenne High School Band will be premiering the new Steam Powered Rocket in New Rockford. I’ll update the website and the blog when I get that date.
I never really understood when classmates (or students) said they were “done” with school. I get it now. Learning is fun, but I have work to do.
It’s hard to balance being a human, a student, a professor, a composer, and a programmer. I have to start curating this down.
I started and finished the Publishing certificate at NDSU. I learned a lot about literary publishing (and saw some book projects to fruition), and it was SO MUCH FUN. I did the program to learn more about music publishing because I thought some things would transfer over, and they do.
I also learned that there’s not much structured learning with music publishing—it’s very much apprenticeship and make-it-up-as-you-go. And if that’s the case, what’s stopping me from making up more stuff?
I started making up publishing stuff for my students.
Are we going to start a music publishing certificate in ND? No. Are we going to nudge composers to work with the NDSU Press to get some experience in publishing? Very yes.
I proposed and implemented a new BM Composition program (the first in the Dakotas), which was either the product of or the cause of taking a full-time position at NDSU.
The more I’ve composed, and the more I’ve taught music, the more I realize that there’s just so much interesting stuff out there to learn, a lot of which intersects with music composition. Psychology of creativity, business administration, critical theory, aesthetics, higher education administration–these are all things that sound terribly interesting.
Cassie’s work at NDSU affords me a half-tuition waiver, so this spring I decided to become a bison. An entire degree seemed like a bit much given the rest of my workload, but some of our graduate certificate offerings seemed like a good place to start. The most logical, I reasoned, was the graduate certificate in Publishing, which is offered through the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science working through the North Dakota State University Press. Even though NDSU’s press is a literary press, the business side of things and the publishing process would be the same as it is in music publishing. After all, everything I know about publishing music is from 1) trial and error or 2) things I read on the internet.
I had to check my transcript, but even though I defended my dissertation in May of 2014, the last seated class I took was Dr. Ken Stephenson’s Bartok, Prokofiev, Chicago in the summer of 2013. So, seven years after being a student, here I am again, this time with experience from the other side of the classroom.
So we’re over halfway through: here’s how it’s going. For starters, it’s the first time I’ve been in a class in a while where I haven’t been in charge. This is great, in some ways it’s like a mini-vacation in the middle of the day. Make no mistake, it’s real work. But it’s nice to follow instead of leading for a bit.
XXXXX (Unpublished Manuscript of 380 pages which we’re editing).
XXXXX (Advance Review Copy of a book to be published in August at 210 pages which we’re proofing).
30 chapbooks of poetry for an acquisitions project.
It looks like a lot, but it doesn’t seem like a lot. Maybe part of it is because it’s real, actual work. These are live projects. The poetry acquisitions project will result in us picking one of those books of poetry to publish. The novel will be printed with my edits. The advance review copy needs someone to proofread it. Everything we do in class matters.
My graduate project for this class involves creating an online music publishing boot camp.
This has made me think of quite a few things, to come later.
As the semester
started, I hoped that things would be calmer than the fall, and thankfully in
most ways they are. In some ways, however, there’s more work. Here’s a list of
some of the things on my radar this spring, some moving into next fall and
At NDSU: I’m part of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Course Curation Committee, which is looking at how to update/streamline some college requirements.
At NDSU: I’m continuing as a member of the NICE Faculty Fellows, which promotes and explores Entrepreneurship.
At NDSU: As part of the NICE center, I’m also helping out with the Civic Innovation Force, which will pair students with the City of Fargo to solve problems.
Through NICE I’ve happened to get involved with a project to promote nanotechnology by writing music about nanotechnology. It’s supported by an NSF grant.
I’m writing a piece
for the NDSU Clarinet Choir, which they’ll perform at ClarinetFest 2020 in
Reno, Nevada. Well, I mean, I’m not actually writing it this very minute, I’m
writing this blog post. But I have been writing it. Except when I haven’t been.
Which has been a lot.
This post isn’t so
much a list of excuses so much as it is an exploration into the creative
procrastination that goes into writing.
I didn’t want to
start the piece until January–I finished the percussion quartet in
mid-December, and wanted to take a break. By the time I ended up getting back
to Fargo and got settled in, it was already the 10th, with classes starting the
I had no idea what
the clarinet choir piece was going to look like, so the first several days of
writing were just bouncing ideas around. I ended up with this weird musical
line in my head, which reminded me of some song I heard in college, and I
wanted to make sure I wasn’t ripping it off. That resulted in several days of
trying to remember what that song was.
It ended up being
Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men. And the line stuck in my head ended up
resembling this not at all. Score one for me.
So that line I
heard, I still haven’t worked into the piece, because every time I start
thinking about where it could fit in, it merges with MacArthur Park. I had
never actually listened to the lyrics of MacArthur park until I listened
through trying to figure out where it fit in.
Part of this time
has been spent looking for other clarinet choir pieces.
There’s a lot of
transcriptions, but not a lot of pieces originally for clarinet choir. So
inspiration is scarce. The NDSU Clarinet Choir will be playing Schickele’s
Monochrome III and Curtis’s Klezmer Triptych, so I know what else is on the
And I almost know
how this piece is going to go too.
After two and a half years, I’m finally giving my first faculty recital at NDSU, featuring all music written in North Dakota.
The planned program is:
The Notes Between The Notes – My song cycle featuring poems by Jamie Parsley. Michelle Gelinske (who premiered the cycle nearly a year ago) wasn’t able to perform in February, so Dr. Kelly Burns, our new voice faculty member, will be performing the cycle with Dr. Amy Mercer.
Next up is the world premiere of Tape Piece, a tape piece featuring…tape sounds.
We’ll round out the evening with the world premiere of Calibrating the Moon, commissioned and premiered by Connor Challey, and featuring Dr. Tyler Wottrich on piano.
The recital poster also features North Dakota:
I hope to see you at Beckwith Recital Hall at NDSU, on February 10 at 7:30 PM!
Over the past month or so, three new pieces have shown up on the website. Together, they represent 40 minutes of new music.
So working backwards, Calibrating the Moon is a tuba sonata written for Connor Challey. No media or score (partially because it’s a commission, and partially because issuu has decided to start charging for embedded documents), but there’s a program note. This work will be premiered nearly next month at NDSU.
Also receiving its premiere next month is Tape Piece, which is a tape piece (like stereo fixed media) about and using tape (like scotch and duct). Unlike Calibrating the Moon it does have media. It’ll also receive its premiere next month, but given that it’s tape, you can hear it in all its glory right now if you’d like.
Finally comes Four Views of the Butterfly Effect, which is a commission from the MinusOne Quartet, and which was a pain to write. I’ll dive into an explanation of it a little later. No program note, score, OR media at the moment, because all I have are mock-ups.
I realized in
February or March of this year that I hadn’t been to any conferences during the
18-19 academic year. This bugged me. It’s hard to maintain a dialogue with
other composers when you’re sitting in your office all the time. Of course, the
Spring semester was filled with creating a composition lecture series for a
class, so at least I wasn’t just watching Netflix.
NYCEMF/ICMC was a blast, as always. I spent a bunch of time with Josh and Ioannis, and worked several concerts as technical staff. OU had a good showing this year, I think five of us had works through the conference. We spent more time in Greenwich Village this year (the conference moved from the lower east side to NYU), so I got my bakery fix at Mille-Feuille and spent way too little time at Strand Bookstore (I bought a volume of Ginsberg poetry).
I spent part of July in the mountains of Utah. The VU 3 Symposium for experimental, electronic, and improvised music was hosted in Park City, and it was an incredible experience I might write more about later. It was chock full of weird technical stuff, presented in a non-judgmental and non-hierarchical way. Not that normal conferences are necessarily judgy, I think that’s just my insecurity coming out.
Anyway, it was a validating and supportive group (reminding me a lot of the last CFAMC conference I attended), and nearly immediately after I returned home, I dove into revising a paper on creativity that I presented the next month at the Aspen Composers’ Conference (which was well-received). Because of all that, this summer was a season of creativity, spending a bunch of time around creative people, thinking about the creative process, how we teach creativity, and so on.
And then I have
airport downtime and I check Facebook. Jeez! Facebook! How little original
content there is on Facebook. Aside from the Ads. Or from pages I like. So much
of it is shared content. So little of it is thought-provoking.
I originally had a
listing of the top thirty or so posts, categorized by original vs. shared
content, if there was any commentary, things like that, but it just got to be
tedious. The simple point is that there was/is a vivid discrepancy between the
creativity at the conferences and the creativity (or lack thereof) in my
This has caused me
to look closer at the creative research I’m doing, and how I can better focus
on 1) presenting it to a wider audience, and 2) integrating more of it in my
It’s already July!?
It’s already halfway through the summer semester!
The spring semester
has been my busiest semester as a professor. Let’s recap:
I had a studio of 6
composers, 4 undergrads and 2 grads.
I mentored the Freshman
Theory II Composition Projects.
I oversaw the Sophomore
Theory IV Composition Projects.
I taught the bassoon part of
Woodwind Methods II.
I taught Music
Entrepreneurship (and wrote a course pack)
I oversaw Grad Theory
We took the wind symphony to
Budapest, Bratislava, and Prague.
And I was asked to join the
NDSU Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (NICE) Faculty
I had a studio of 3 students
in Comp II and 2 students in Comp III.
I had one capstone advisee.
I taught Advanced Scoring and
I turned Comp I into a
lecture-based class, with 15 students.
I organized the 18th annual
VCSU Composers Concert.
At NoteForge/As a
I recorded and produced an
I wrote one and a half
I did some massive upgrades
I solved a lot of issues with
Some of these things
were successful due to my hard work. Some of these things were successful due
to my dumb luck. Some of these things could be greatly improved.
Turning Comp I at
VCSU into a lecture class was a ton of work. It was fun, and I learned a great
deal about video editing, but it took up way more time than I was expecting.
Luckily, with those videos in “maintenance mode” now, I’ll have some
tweaks but most of it can stand.
I built that class
around my ideas about the creative process, which I’m beginning to codify into
something tangible. I’m presenting a poster about the process at this year’s
I didn’t do a bunch
of conferences/festivals this year, mostly due to a focus on teaching since
VCSU was a new thing. I’m ramping up those things this summer, with a piece at
NYCEMF/ICMC last week and a presentation at the VU 3 Symposium in Park City, UT
I wrote a piece for
bass clarinet duet + piano, and I started on a tuba sonata that I’m really
enjoying, though it’s taking a while trying to find time to write. Which
reminds me–This semester I started booking dedicated creative time, so that
I’m in the studio working on composition-related things every morning until 10.
This worked…most of the time.
I picked up a
faculty fellowship in Entrepreneurship, and as a part of that I’ve spent a
bunch of time thinking about how to update NDSU’s Music Entrepreneurship class.
That’ll be it’s own separate post I’m sure.