Composition

gottschalk arthurArthur Gottschalk, Rice University
CMS Board Member for Composition

2013 really started for me and the Composition Advisory Board (Edmund Cionek, Lelsie Hogan, Malcolm Solomon, and Amy Dunker) in December of 2012, as that’s when the bulk of our work reviewing musical works submitted for consideration for performance at the 2013 CMS National Conference was done. The system for performing and selecting members’ works was modified and refined further from the previous year, with the assistance of the Board Member for Performance, Deborah Nemko. She and her committee first put out a call for ensembles willing to perform new music at the conference and on the composer concerts. Once they selected their ensembles, a call was put out for scores that matched those ensembles, or at least a significant subset. Of course, the traditional call for composer-provided performers was also extended. So it was from those works that the Composition Advisory Board selected, and then sent their selections to the ensembles for further review.

As the year began, and especially as the national conference loomed ever closer, there were a few problems: some ensembles disbanded, some decided that they couldn’t afford the trip to Cambridge, some ensembles were of such an unusual disposition that none of the submissions fit their instrumentation. Thanks to the invaluable assistance of both Deborah and of Peter Park, we were able to patch holes and keep things going. Indeed, the composition concerts at this year’s national conference were among the best yet, in terms of performance quality, interest and diversity of compositions, and especially attendance. Those fortunate enough to be in Cambridge for this year’s conference can attest to the fact that the composer concerts were among the best attended events in a lengthy string of stellar offerings, throughout the conference.

The bulk of my attention during the year, however, was given over to another project involving the performance of compositions at the national conferences. CMS has long been limited, by budget and personnel constraints among other factors, to smaller ensembles, and especially those that require little or no equipment and/or minor technical support. Anyone who follows contemporary music is aware of the strictures this can place upon current creative thinking and output. So when our Executive Director, Robby Gunstream, asked the board members last year to find a national organization in alignment with each of our department’s interests and activities, and provide a liaison to CMS therefrom, I thought of SCI (the Society of Composers, Inc.), and its outgoing President, Tom Wells. I asked Robby, and current CMS President Patricia Campbell, about the idea of further exploring the idea of forming a synergistic relationship between CMS and SCI, whereby SCI might apply its expertise at mobilizing university performance resources in the service of new music to the needs of the CMS national conference as it moves its location across North America on an annual basis. Given their go-ahead, I left the 2013 CMS National Board Meeting in Dallas early, in order to fly to Columbus, OH for the SCI National Conference, and make such a proposal to the leadership and to the membership of SCI. The proposal was received enthusiastically, Tom Wells was asked to represent SCI as its liaison to CMS, and immediately a number of mutual benefits were determined to exist, chief among which was the idea that, eventually, SCI members would be encouraged or required to join CMS if selected for performances at CMS events, and vice-versa. This would also offer SCI and CMS composer members alike a greater number of platforms for the performance and dissemination of their work.

Tom went to work immediately on finding such resources for the 2014 CMS national conference in St. Louis. The universities in the immediate area were extremely limited in their ability to meet our members’ needs, but farther out in the state Tom struck gold, first with the Central Missouri University new music ensemble’s Director, saxophone virtuoso and multi-media specialist Eric Honour, and later with Patrick Clark, interim new music director at the University of Missouri. An Italian saxophone quartet also volunteered their services, as they would be in residence nearby at that time, but by the time they made that known to us we were already preparing this year’s Call for Scores.

As always, the Calls for Scores were made primarily by Peter Park, with input from the Composition Board, and so this year CMS members were asked to submit works in four categories: the traditional composer-provided performer area (which due to the natural exigencies of budget and travel generally results in a terrific array of solo pieces with and without piano), a new category for electroacoustic works and multi-media, that Dr. Honour would curate, another specifically for saxophone or saxophone with electroacoustic sounds, that Dr. Honour would perform, and lastly one for larger, “Pierrot”-type ensemble, for which the universities could supply the forces, equipment, etc. These calls resulted in 162 submissions, which were all vetted in December and early January of this year, and the results passed on to the various performing entities for further refinement. We hope to notify selected composers very soon; such composers will have their music presented on a reduced number of composer concerts during the proceedings of this year’s conference at the St. Louis Ritz-Carlton. October 30 – November 1, 2014. I cannot thank the selfless efforts of Eric Honour, Thomas Wells, and the Composition Advisory Board (including its student member, Garret Schumann) enough for what they have done to ensure that CMS composers can receive the highest level of performance under the circumstances.

I am continuing into my third, and final year of serving CMS in this capacity. I thank Samuel Magrill and his nominating committee for making sure that whoever follows me in this position will do so with at least the same care, consideration, and enthusiasm, and hopefully even more.