At this point in my career as a composer/arranger, teaching is definitely what pays the bills. I do, however, love to teach. My experiences in the classroom profoundly impact me as a composer and I certainly enjoy giving students the "nuts and bolts" in order to perform and experience music on their own. This is where being a teacher/composer comes in handy. I often find myself writing countless exercises to teach students how to READ music. Its amazing how much reinforcement is needed...and sometimes it is very frustrating. Very frustrating. But when the lightbulb finally does go off, it is totally worth it. So to any educators (specifically band directors) that would like to check out my "Free Stuff" section, please use any and all of these resources I create. I write them when my students need it, every one has been used and works in the classroom (the ones that don't work haven't made it onto the website).
For whatever reason today, I googled "Robert Frost public domain." To my excitement, I found that "The Road Not Taken" is actually in the public domain!! This poem has always been one of my favorites and despite the fact that it has probably been set to music many times, I plan on setting it myself. I can remember years ago reading about how Eric Whitacre had originally set Sleep to a Robert Frost poem and the words had to be changed due to copyright laws. Apparently, anything Frost published before 1923 is in the public domain. Great news. It has been quite a while since I wrote a choral piece, so this will be a great adventure for me. Maybe I'll go sit in the woods and read the poem a few times.
"The Road Not Taken" (1916)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Summer is always a good time for me to sit down and get some editing done. Usually I am finishing up arrangements for various marching band, so I'm in overdrive when it comes to editing music. Because I edit all of my own music, I've developed a process that helps get clean, readable scores into director's hands. In my opinion, having a neatly edited score is as important as having a good composition/arrangement. Nobody will want to play your music if it's too difficult to read and put together musically.
Below is a guide I've typed up for all who are interested. By no means do I feel like this is a perfect guide that includes everything, but it is a few thoughts that are going through my head during this summer season of editing.
With July 4th around the corner, and a Veteran's Day piece to start writing, my first post will be about how I plan to go about writing an "American" piece of music.
So here's the plan, compositionally speaking. I've found that when trying to create a certain "sound," listening is the best place to start. The more I get certain harmonies and melodic phrases in my head, the easier it is to create music in the same vein. So, what music should I listen to that's quintessentially American. Well, let's start with Copland. More specifically, Lincoln Portrait. For those people who know this piece, it is truly a journey. Aside from imitating the harmonies and melodies created, I really do like the range of colors and emotions he creates. At times, triumphant. At times, playful. All of it powerful.
Next, I plan to take a detour to Bernstein. Though it will be a short detour, Bernstein has created so many great works of music, I certainly want his melodies spinning through my head. After listening to some Bernstein, I plan to end up on John Williams. I will specifically be listening to the patriotic films he scored, as well as his music for the Olympics. I'll probably watch Saving Private Ryan which will help with my own reverence factor. I am composing a piece to salute veterans and what a sobering reminder of how many Americans gave their lives for freedom.
So here's to listening for a few hours, then to sit at a piano for a while and start writing. Wish me luck!