Oh no! More tips…. Now it’s the poor composers….

I’m a bit concerned that this sudden outpouring of advice is making me look even more like a pompous gasbag than I do simply by virtue of being a conductor (and worse yet, a conductor who writes), but then there was this…. 

 In the comments on More Tips for Soloists, composer Rob Deemer asks-

Nice posts, Ken – I would be curious to have you take your comments about concerti commissions one step further to give us your thoughts on working with composers in general, both in terms of writing non-concerti orchestral works and “tips” on how to work with a conductor & orchestra during a rehearsal for a premiere. Many of your comments in your previous post in regards to etiquette sounded quite close to my own thoughts on composers in rehearsals. I’ve given my own composition students plenty of advice, but it’s always helpful to hear it from another conductor directly.

The piece below started life as a post on Orchestralist (written in 2004) in response to one composer’s plea for help in getting their music programmed. It generated lots of comment at the time, including….

Dear Ken –

I am only now catching up with old orchestralist digests. I just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for your thoughtful and true posting concerning composers and conductors. Much of this I have been preaching for years and years, and I am glad to see a conductor saying it as well. And I found your descriptions of the opposition and preconceptions you encountered before the composer was even know to the board to be especially poignant. The same has happened to me on too many occasions, and I’ve actually had board members later come up to me and say, “hey I’m sorry that I didn’t want to give you a chance now that I hear your music. You’re stuff is nice!” Sigh.
But I especially found your comments on deportment and rehearsal protocols to be right on target. I’ve seen too many composers shoot themselves and everyone else in the foot with their own bad or unprofessional behavior in response to someone else’s bad or unprofessional behavior. I have found that it’s always best to make the best of things! Honey goes solo much further than vinegar!
Thanks again for your support of music of living composers, and again for your posting.

            All my best to you and yours –

                Linda                Linda Robbins Coleman

And this


Spectacular posting on Olist!  Thank you for hitting the target so accurately.

Warm regards,

Jennifer Higdon  


Well intentioned advice from a conductor to (young) composers-

Helpful hints for getting your music played by an orchestra and surviving, even enjoying, the experience:                                                                                              

First, please remember that there is probably no initiative a conductor can take, except for firing a player, that will almost always generate more complaint and resistance than to program a brand new piece of music. Last year (2003), my orchestra (the Oregon East Symphony) had our first ever composer-in-residence (Emily Doolittle), and a year long focus on music by living women composers. Some members of our board literally tried everything they could think of to block this project. They even passed a resolution saying that our management was too busy to pursue funding, that the board was too busy to pursue funding, and that the orchestra, although comfortably in the black and ahead of our projections for grant income, was too poor to fund it ourselves. They also held up approval of the residency concept for so long that we were unable to apply for many of the normal grants for commissions. They literally forced me to go looking for funding myself and to prove that I wasn’t making the office staff help me. Imagine the reaction of the leader of that faction when we pulled it off and found a donor who would make the project (which was on a total shoestrings anyway)  happen? Some players are also notoriously skeptical about new works- they often start making judgments about the piece right away, when they may be playing it so terribly that there is very little of the composer’s vision on display.

Composers, rightly, ask a lot of conductors. We are your advocates, and we have to overcome the skepticism or outright hostility of players, funders and audience members. Any time we program new music, we know there will be complaints, extra work for us, extra expense for the orchestra and probably some lost revenue thanks to those members of the public who would rather sit at home sulking than listen to something they don’t already know.

In the end, the residency was very successful. We gave three premieres, one US, two world, of pieces by Emily, one per concert. Each was better received and played than the one before. We also featured her final piece, “green/blue,” which we commissioned, on our educational concerts as well as the subscription program. Emily made school visits, and spoke to the kids about the piece at the concert. We have a great visual art center and community here, and we tried to connect Emily to that network. The visual art world has a completely different attitude than the music world about new material- it is the heart of what they do and makes up the bulk of what they present. We found that there were board members at the art center who had given many thousands of their own dollars to support living artists who had never even thought of going to a new music ensemble concert or supporting a new composition. As some of their leaders watched the residency unfold, heard this composer’s breadth of style over several concerts, and got to know Emily they began to get very excited about watching a new piece of music come to life. They recognized the same thrill of discovery they knew from their work with painters and sculptors- an attitude our own board could have learned a great deal from.

For my money, here are some basic things to keep in mind, if you really want your music to be played and understood. This advice is not artistic in nature, only practical. I really believe that you, the composer, hold your own professional destiny in your hands to a much greater extent than you know, although it may feel that you have more power to damage your situation than to help it sometimes. These suggestions are not presented to be condescending, but just as food for thought from a friend. They are offered with love and the deepest admiration for what you do, knowing full well that for many readers, I’m stating the obvious.

1- Always notate your music in the simplest, most traditional and straightforward way possible. Use Italian musical terms whenever possible- how would you do reading a score in Japanese/Polish/Hungarian/Sanskrit? Always present parts that are perfectly proof-read and beautifully printed. For whatever musical effect you want, find the technically easiest and most idiomatic way of achieving it. Never give up on your musical vision just to make something easy, but don’t spare yourself the effort of working at the playability of your music. Just because something “can be done” or “should be possible” doesn’t mean it belongs in your final score. Why waste time or goodwill of players or conductors if you can achieve the same musical effect with simpler means? Look at how Penderecki’s notation changed once he started conducting his own music. Look at Crumb’s music and try to understand why his crazy notation is an organic and indispensable part of the music- he had good reasons for re-inventing notation, but do you? Look at a passage like the infamous string arpeggios in Harris Symphony No. 3 and see if you could have written the same music in a more playable way. Ask a conductor or player for help in making a passage playable… wait, I meant as simple and idiomatic as possible (as simple and idiomatic as possible may still not be easily playable, that’s fine, and playable may still not be as simple and idiomatic as possible)- sometimes it is just a matter of splitting a part between two players. When writing for the harp or guitar, always show the part to a competent player before sending it to the orchestra. Note- As simple and idiomatic as possible for the piece YOU WANT TO WRITE- nobody wants you to sacrifice the clarity of your musical vision, we only ask  that you find the most sensible way of expressing it to us, the performers. This is your job. This is the homework.

2- Don’t bring antagonism towards anyone else’s music into gatherings that include anyone but you. In any “us vs. them” match up, whether it is “new vs. old,” “tonal vs. atonal,” “US vs. Europe,” academic vs. self supporting, you, the composer, lose. More importantly, it creates unbelievable resentment among everyone whose support you need. You may hate Beethoven or Schoenberg in the privacy of your own home, but no matter what you hate, someone in the orchestra or the audience loves it, and if you convince them that you don’t listen to music with open ears, they won’t feel they owe you the same courtesy. More to the point, you may hate Mozart or Ligetti now, but someone in the building knows how much you could learn from them, and you’ll only embarrass yourself by criticizing their music. Think how silly Brahms and Tchaikovsky’s comments on one another’s music now sounds. Listen to the other works on the program with the same level of open-mindedness and interest that you want people to listen to your music.

3- When it comes time to attend a rehearsal for your work, arrive no less than one hour early. Check in with the conductor before the rehearsal, or ask the orchestra management if the conductor would like to speak with you. Be in the hall, score unpacked, five minutes before tuning, even if your piece is not first. Plan to listen to the entire rehearsal, regardless of how many works are being rehearsed, and try to listen with a score whenever possible– there is always something to learn, and the musicians will appreciate your interest in their work. When it comes time for your piece to be rehearsed, remember, the players may be enthusiastic or not, but they will definitely be nervous playing for you, and will be very anxious to please and sensitive to criticism. If there is something in the piece that is not presented in its most idiomatic possible presentation (see #1 above) they will be very defensive and frustrated, and if you blame them for a poor execution of it, it is just like the conductor who drops a beat, causes a train wreck and then tells the horns they were too loud- you instantly and forever lose their respect. Make notes while they are playing, and make a plan of what you want to talk about. If they are doing a run-through, be up out of your seat and at the edge of the stage when the piece is over, notes in hand and in order, ready to go, not wasting a second of rehearsal time.

4- The conductor and the orchestra want your feedback, that’s why you are there. However, you should always speak sotto voce with the conductor before saying anything out loud to the orchestra. You can only benefit from talking with her/him first- they may be able to clear up why there was  a problem and save you valuable time and good will. When speaking to a string section, speak to the entire section, not just the principal. When speaking to the orchestra, speak clearly and loudly– mumbling only wastes your precious rehearsal time. Learn to phrase criticisms positively and respectfully– watching good conductors rehearse is a great lesson in semantics. Don’t point out obvious mistakes of concentration the first time they happen. Do give them your point of view about the meaning of the piece if asked or if the conductor prompts you, otherwise give your feedback in direct faster-slower-longer-shorter-softer-louder terms. If a player tells you something is unplayable, and you know it isn’t because you showed it to another player or it’s already been played, bite your tongue and talk to the conductor later. You can only lose in that conversation. However, ask yourself if, even if it is playable, could it have been presented more simply or more idiomatically? Make a note to ask someone who plays the instrument or the conductor for advice before the second performance.

5- Hang around in the breaks even if you are shy and even if nobody talks to you (welcome to the world of the assistant conductor!). You might get to learn something fantastic about an instrument that could help you in future with advice on subject No. 1 (writing as idiomatically as possible), or get a better sense of how the players feel about your piece. It is probably more positive than you think!

6- Learn to talk about your music, and about where your music fits in cultural history. Learn to talk about that Mozart/Beethoven/Bizet work on the other half of the concert. If invited for a pre-concert lecture you should be able to speak enthusiastically and lucidly about everything on the program. You should be able to answer questions about your own influences- people want to know. Forget the old “I let my music talk for me” crap. If you want your art to have a place in a lazy and anti-intellectual world, where every day corporations are spending tens of millions of dollars making and selling garbage music and garbage movies and garbage theatre and garbage TV, then you are going to have to learn to fight for your music by spreading your love of art and creativity (all art and creativity, not just yours).

7- Know something about the other arts– your biggest supporters may be people who are usually more involved with literature or painting. Also be prepared to share your general life interests- people want to know you live in the same world they do. If they understand that, your music will have greater meaning for them.

8- Always send your parts and score to the orchestra one week before the deadline– that is your real deadline. This means that if there is a problem in shipment, it is not a disaster. Once sent, make no changes or revisions– if you have done your homework (see #1 above) you shouldn’t need to. The second version is for the second performance. Always call the orchestra librarian to confirm that they have the parts and score- they are too busy to call you. Do not call the orchestra librarian or conductor to make changes or revisions (see above). If you find dozens of mistakes the night before the first rehearsal, you are about to get the performance you deserve. Do not call the conductor or the librarian. Go to the pub and start drinking, because you are about to have the worst experience of your musical life, and there is nothing you can do now. If mistakes reveal themselves in the parts during rehearsal, which they should not but will, fix them, but make not revisions unless you have the unqualified support and encouragement of the conductor, the librarian and the concertmaster. Otherwise, wait for the second performance.

9- If the conductor, or a player(s) in the orchestra are incompetent or mean, don’t let their shabby conduct drag you down to their level– others are watching, and you can go from victim to villain even faster than a conductor. Comport yourself with dignity, don’t generalize your unhappiness to include people who are actually behaving well. Do not try to take over the rehearsal- keep putting your comments to the conductor first unless the concertmaster/leader creates a dialogue with you (they are the ones responsible for saving the day when the conductor is a buffoon). Unless you are an expert, and I mean expert, never try to conduct your music in rehearsal- you might be a buffoon too! That idiot conductor might be a very good pianist, or composer, that’s probably why he or she thought she could conduct! If a situation can’t be fixed with positive language and specific musical suggestions, it can’t be fixed, so live to fight another day. If you show grace and composure, the other musicians will go to heroic efforts to save the performance, even if they aren’t huge fans of the piece (and there are few good pieces an orchestra can’t save from the clutches of an idiot conductor if they have to). Otherwise, wait for the second performance.

10- When it is all over, thank the players, and leave them feeling good about the shared effort. You may have reservations about their performance or your piece, that’s fine, but don’t share them. Instead think about what they, and you, have accomplished. Make sure to go to the reception, and seek out and thank board members. When you talk to them, tell them how helpful the people in the management have been, how good the conductor was, how much you enjoyed the soloist, or how you had played that symphony/overture/concerto back when you were a horn player. Tell people about what you’ve enjoyed in the community (BTW- always try to get to the local gallery and any non-classical music event you can make time for). When you get home, write a few thank you notes. Make your mother proud. All of this not only reflects well on you and increased the odds of the orchestra continuing to support you, but also greatly increases the likelihood the organization and community will support other composers in the future.

Wishing you the best of luck


September 2003

Copyright 2003, Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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26 comments on “Oh no! More tips…. Now it’s the poor composers….”

  1. composerbastard

    “…The conductor and the orchestra want your feedback, that’s why you are there. However, you should always speak sotto voce with the conductor before saying anything out loud to the orchestra…”

    Absolutely essential protocol…you serve the conductor IMHO. You are apart of the orchestra.

    “…Use Italian musical terms whenever possible…”

    Not me no way never again. I once had a few AFM musicians consume 1 minute of valuable clock time in a recording session I conducted trying to find the right definition of “Lontano”. Some never heard the word before. Some learned it incorrectly. Use English and avoid pretentiousness.

  2. Kenneth Woods

    CB writes…
    “I once had a few AFM musicians consume 1 minute of valuable clock time in a recording session I conducted trying to find the right definition of “Lontano”. Some never heard the word before. Some learned it incorrectly. Use English and avoid pretentiousness. ”

    Bummer, but if you were doing the piece in Russia or Korea, the delay for the English would have been far worse.

    Is it possible that some more standard Italian term, like piano, sotto voce, flautando or sul tasto would have done the job? Just asking- I can appreciate the poetic value of the term, but is putting it in the parts the simplest way possible of getting the sound you want from the band? Schubert was the master of lontano, but I don’t believe he ever used the term, just wrote the music that way….

    I’m reminded of what one of the principal string players in Chicago once said about Mahler’s German terminology (and this was in the Solti years when they were performing and recording Mahler all the time)– “I don’t know or care what any of that shit means.” He said if he played the dynamics (p, f, etc) and watched the conductor, he was always fine…. I wonder how much gets lost to this mindset which could have gotten through in Italian.

    Of course, I do pieces with vernacular terminology all the time- I just think Italian is always the safest and the most useful anywhere in the world….

    Cheers man



  3. Rob Deemer

    Excellent post, Ken – I figured that you’d have some pearls of wisdom and you nailed it. As a composer who conducts, it’s somewhat easier to take these as second nature, but for the emerging composer there’s just too many landmines in that orchestral field for comfort.

    As for the language thing, I use English for style markings at the beginning of the work and at tempo changes, etc., since I can be a lot more specific in terms of the overall “feel” than in Italian, but for the examples you gave (piano, sotto voce, flautando, sul tasto), those are specific performance instructions that should be considered standard with few exceptions (specific mute changes, extended technique instructions, etc.).

    Thanks again from one pompous gasbag to another 😉


  4. ComposerBastard

    No, Lontano is absolutely what I meant. It’s not obscure and why I chose it. It’s in most of my modern scores (my taste I guess). That’s what’s so shocking to me. But, I don’t believe it would matter what italian term I came up with (flautando?). Someone would always be confused. I’m reminded that Debussy used French; Stravinsky used Russian; the Vienna^2 school used German.

    Koreans and Russians would have a hard time in any other language, IMHO, except their own.(well..I’m sure Koreans would understand english quite well since its used quite a lot in the east as a generic language). And you have to ask yourself the probability that they would they be the first to read or ever play any of my music to begin with? They will have to just deal with it. I’m working in the west I might use different spellings – colour instead of color – but I do that by my upbringing habit anyway. =)

    My valuable take away? Use the language you are most comfortable with. You cannot depend on education. All these musicians I used were top notch educated pros. I know you may get snickers and grinches from the orthodox, but 1) there won’t be any ambiguous time wasted 2) you’ll get good recordings 3) you’ll sleep knowing you are being honest in who you are, and your own language abilities and education.

    Clarification on earlier comment: You serve the music like everyone else in the orchestra. You have a role with helping the conductor find a vision for the music you found. Just like everyone else serving the music, your role may have a primary importance or a minor importance given the necessity of a given moment. However, if at all possible, let the conductor ALWAYS talk to the players unless he/she wants you to speak to them. Talk to the conductor softly on all advice. Make sure the player know the conductor is the conduit to the vision and you respect that fully.

    Also, during these sessions, try and have a second or third working with you – 1 or 2 other composers or some musicians you trust – acting as a music producer and/or someone to follow the score looking for mistakes. If you are in a recording session, they will sit in the booth. You cannot catch all things going by. You are going to be overwhelmed by the experience of listening to the work for the first time and answering questions for the details . It may even hurt. You also cannot depend on the conductor solving all problems for you. You cannot expect that. They have a lot going on as well and need to prioritize the anomalies. Rehearsal and recording time is small. There will not be enough passes budgeted to catch everything. So, having extra ears on it helps catch things in the minimal passes you have been given and is critical. You ask your booth person(s) for feedback when things settle and discuss that with the conductor.

    Finally, if you are hiring a group, make sure you get a good caterer and order extra. Good musicians are always hungry. And good conductors are always starved for extra calories. They may even commission you if the roast beef is fresh and you go organic =).

  5. Kenneth Woods

    Hey CB-

    All brilliantly well said- just note the “whenever possible” on Italian terms. Sounds like for you, it ain’t possible any more! Obviously, you’re in good company with Debussy and Schumann and Mahler on this. I know you’ll appreciate that, given your oft-stated love of Mahler….


  6. John

    Great post – I have had great experiences working with composers – during my Masters, I was the “go to conductor guy” for choral premieres of young composers trying to complete their graduate concerts. I love the interaction between the conductor, the ensemble and the composer – it really puts everything into perspective. We spend so much time interpreting music of dead composers, and performing music of live composers is every bit, if not more, important to our profession.

    Just some observations from the choir side – choirs are finicky beings, they don’t read well or learn fast (unless they are professional – and even then – the most avant-guard music does not come quickly). Avoid false-relations within a part, and don’t expect singers to be able to sing every interval – stick to one accidental when ever possible, (don’t write an augmented 5th when a minor 6th will do fine) Know the choir you are working for, and write for their ability and make-up. I’ll never forget the year the my chamber choir commissioned a work from a student composer, as a way of supporting the composition program by way of commission “scholarship”. The composer and I met and I explained that our 24 voice choir had only 3 tenors, so divisi should be limited in all parts, and avoided completely in the tenor if possible. We didn’t care about the language, but would prefer some kind of suitable “themed” poetry, and it could have atonal elements, but should be listenable for our audience base, so some tonality would be good once in a while. Plus, we only have four rehearsals to learn it, so keep 8-10 minutes would probably be a good length. He came back six months later with a 30 minute work for 32 part choir (up to six divisi within each part) with graphic notation and nonsensical text. Needless to say, we couldn’t perform it, and paid for nothing.

    Apparently he did get a good mark for it in his Masters’ portfolio though.

  7. rootlesscosmo

    Language note; I was working on a Schumann piano trio and observed to my partners that a passage in the slow movement was marked “ausdruckvoll” in the score. “Hmm,” said the cellist, “my part says Espressivo.” “Gee,” said the violinist, “mine just says Loud…”

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  10. Lisa Hirsch

    Great posting, Ken. I am curious if any members of the OES board ever said “we were wrong” or apologized or said “great success, let’s do it again” after the composer-in-residence program worked out so well.

  11. Kenneth Woods

    Great Question, Lisa

    To the best of my recollection, nobody who opposed the project (a tiny but vocal and determined faction) ever expressed a change of heart. Many, many board members, musicians and members of the public did say “great success.” The obstacle in doing it again is not that the vast majority wouldn’t want to do it, but that they don’t want to fight the same battles over and over again against the obstructionists…. It’s like an orchestral filibuster- people in organizations learn to advance their agenda by simply doing everything they can to stop others from accomplishing things, something that I think happens in every organization.

    Cheers, and great to hear from you


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  13. Tom Davis

    Having only conducted high school and college groups, I cannot imply that I know the intimacies of the professional conductor. But, as a composer I would like to say that I have never read a more practical or effect approach as presented in, “Well intentioned advice from a conductor to (young) composers-.”

    Incidently, at a performance of one of my compositions for band, the conductor (undoubtedly in the throes of a Freudian slip) asked me to stand at the conclusion of the performance and introduced me as the “composter” of the piece. My tongue is still sore from intense biting.

  14. Kenneth Woods

    I think my response to Lisa’s earlier question was a bit too pessimistic in retrospect.

    As I mentioned, those people who tried to stop the residency from happening were mad when it happened and would have tried to block a future one (and have tried the same tactics on all matter of other projects).

    However, although we haven’t done another residency, we have had a huge increase in the representation of new music since then, having done several premieres and commissions including, most recently, Leandro Espinosa’s Movement for Strings, premiered in November. Excitingly, I feel like the audience has gotten more and more receptive to new music during that time.

    We’ve focused largely on composers who live in the area- many of them are known to people as performers or teachers in addition to their writing or have some tie to the town. This means we get some of the presence and connection of a residency without flying someone in and out, and also means we’ve been able to spread the opportunities around rather than give an entire season to one composer.

    Also, composers often feel that they’re having to (unfairly) compete with standard repertoire for space on programs and budget. The worse news is that they have to compete with the musicians onstage as well- we’ve drastically cut our guest artist budget to focus on building the quality of the orchestra on stage, and that has taken precidence over inviting another composer-in-residence (and any number of pianists and violinists) for now. However, we’ve been able to make up for that so far by seeking out talented and interesting composers in the neighborhood….


  15. Elodie Lauten

    If I’ve ever seen an uptight form of art described there it is. What a turn-off for some of the more creative types….Not your fault – you are elegantly and accurately describing the ‘military’ conditions in which we work in that sphere. As far as I can see there is no alternative to the hyper-structured orchestra, where each small behavior is so ltightly ruled to the point of cancelling any spontaneity? No wonder why I have not much interest in orchestral music right now.
    For a totally different viewpoint,,,, but thanks for your insightful article. And apologies as well.

  16. Dean Rosenthal

    One thing that I’ll make sure to do, among others, is bring with me a checklist, no doubt based upon your suggestions, remarks, and advice when I bring my work to rehearsal, performance, and history. And if the docile nature of my attitude today fails, I’ll already have learned more than I thought I would have, certainly. I couldn’t thank you enough, Ken. Fabulous.

  17. KE Peace


    thanks for such a fantastic post — I am just starting to enter the world of professional groups, sending out scores, interacting with conductors, etc — one shy toe in the water at a time — and have often felt the “kid alone in a big forest full of unknowns” type of feeling.

    Your article is going to be printed and hung on my wall. Just what I needed to hear.

    Yours truly,
    Karen Peace

  18. Kenneth Woods

    Dear Elodie-

    Thank you so much for your comment.

    There are two separate issues here that I think you’re responding to. One is the fact that there are always forces and people who are resistant to change, like my recalcatrant board members. That’s just life, and I try not to let it bum me out- at least they give money!

    As far as the hyper-structured nature of the orchestra, I’ve struggled to find my peace with it as a conductor. I hate watching the clock. My other great love in life is quartet playing. In my old quartet, if we needed more time on a piece, we would often rehearse on later or just agree to meet sometime the next day or even later that day. The clock was only for starting rehearsals, never finishing them, except to gently remind us that we all had other gigs and commitments. Whatever the program, we would add whatever time it took to be ready when the concert came.

    Orchestras are different- the time is painfully finite, and the trains have to run on time- you have a duty of trust with musicians, board members, the owners of the hall and many others, that means you have to start and finish on time, and not just start rehearsals on time… One must issue rehearsal schedules on time, finish bowings on time, order music on time, send out season ticket brochures on time. …

    So….. How do I live with it? My non-musical love in life is hiking. More than once, I’ve gotten caught out at the end of the day, racing a setting sun to get back to camp. Orchestra life is always a day hike- there are only so many hours of sunlight in a day, and for an orchestra, a day is a concert sequence. You may want to hike an entire 35 mile loop, but with experience and knowledge of the difficulties of the path, you may realize that 15 miles is long enough, and if the terrain is hard, 5 is plenty. Working in orchestras means knowing how many hours of sunshine you have, and picking the path accordingly.

    The guidlines don’t say not to do this or never to do that, only to know that everytime you use a creative form of notation or a non-Italian tempo marking, the sun continues to move overhead, and eventually it may start to set before you’ve gotten where you want to go.

    I don’t dare call myself a composer, but I’ve written music since I was a little kid. If someone told me to write a 14 minute wind quintet by Tuesday in the key of F# minor or a 47 minute twelve tone piece for string orchestra by the end of Feb, I could do it. The more limits and parameters I have to work within, the more creative I feel, and the same is true for writing words….

    Thanks again for your writing!!!!!!!!!! I hope you’ll not give up on orchestras- they can do marvellous things with that limited time and that terrible structure.


  19. Rob Deemer

    And it was such an innocent question…

    Your post has started quite a thread over at Sequenza21, Ken – many in the same vein as Elodie’s.


  20. Pingback: Kenneth Woods- a view from the podium » The Sequanza 21 tips thread

  21. Kenneth Woods

    My colleague Joyce offered the following via email…
    “I was listening to something on NPR tonight that reminded me to check in with your blog, but on the way to it I got diverted to something you posted in 2003 about considerations composers should keep in mind when preparing and presenting their new pieces to orchestras. Three things in particular rang true with me from experience: no rewriting until the second performance; get all corrections made before sending the music; and check with harp or guitar players if you write for them.

    In the website I lead, Harp Spectrum, we have an article about composing for harp, and it ends up with a plea for all composers to show their harp music to a harpist before publishing it. i recently gave lots of tips to a young Greek composer who emailed me his music, and to a rather prolific writer of band music from Detroit, I think, whose music writing program, I found, was full of mistakes especially regarding pedal charts.”

    The Harp Spectrum article can be found here, and is a great primer for those new to the harp.

  22. Pingback: Kenneth Woods- a view from the podium » CMEW wrap-up

  23. Daniel E. Friedman

    Great advice. Proper social skills and rehearsal conduct are essentials if, as a composer, you want a continuing professional relationship with a group or orchestra. Thanks for the article.

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