Composer/Performer Therapy Session #1

Monday night was our first composition workshop with Kyle Vegter and Manual Cinema, in preparation for our February collaboration, FJORDS. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that this workshop was awesome because of the ways in which it required all parties to leave their egos at the door (of Aimee’s new, awesome Bucktown apartment). Sometimes I think performers and composers need to get therapy together. So many neuroses to contend with.

From my perspective as a performer:

  • Rehearsal is usually a very private thing. It’s always just the four of us in a rehearsal. Monday, there were eight! All of our rehearsal rituals were on display. I was shocked at how it sort of felt like a bunch of my friends decided to come hang out in the bathroom with me. Is this why they call it ‘chamber music’?
  • We were sight-reading Kyle’s music. Kyle’s music involves diamond-shaped note heads, unusual symbols and abbreviations, and ever-changing time signatures.
  • We were sight-reading in front of the composer. Will he think it’s lame that we want to turn on the metronome, or that we keep counting out loud? Am I being too whiny about the unusual notation? We want to be GGG (musically!) for what the composer is doing.
  • We were sight-reading in front of Julia, Drew and Sarah — MC’s visual team — who had come to get a sense of the piece. What if we don’t give them a sense ofANYTHING? Will they be alarmed by all the funny noises we are making with our instruments?
  • Did I mention we were sight-reading? (This element is optional and will probably be eliminated next time.)

And, I could imagine, from the composer’s perspective (though perhaps Kyle can fill us in on his blogtoo!):

  • This quartet is sight-reading my music in front of me.
  • What if it's unplayable?
  • What if they don't like it?
  • What if, as Kyle said, it ‘sounds like nothing’?!

So. Emotions can run high. And we did it! We gave Kyle feedback on glissandos, notation issues, double-stop playability, octave ranges, etc. We felt appreciated by our visiting visual team; they looked really excited. It was awesome.

Of all the ego-checking necessary to this process, Kyle probably had the tallest order. And it was his idea! He was actually listening to me say stuff like, "This notation is like if a stop sign suddenly turned green" and not killing me. It was great. Thanks Kyle.

I should say, after discovering and reading Nico Muhly’s blog, I’m inspired to be more candid on this blog. He’s incredibly candid and honest there, and of course, this starts some great conversations about our field. The ideal blog tone is somewhere between stiff press release and reality TV. Right?