As I surpass the Six Month Anniversary of my full-time freelance composition life, I thought it might be nice to reflect on the last half year and share my experiences via blog. I honestly can’t believe that it’s already been a half of a year! The time has flown. I have been all over the spectrum in terms of determination, self doubt, confidence and fear. I have been stressed about finding paid projects and I’ve made some missteps as a result. I’ve tried new and challenging pieces – some successful, and some less so – and I have had some serious personal triumphs. All in all, I am so happy to be composing full time; honestly, nothing could give me as much joy as composing does!
Note – this blog is filled with tons of shameless plugs to different content and opportunities. Wink.
So, let’s start with the dirt – the missteps!
So about two months into my full-time journey, it became apparent that I had very naively assumed that one of my group projects would be funded, and I had not come up with a plan B for those three months of work. Quite naturally, as happens in the arts sector, we didn’t get the funding. That’s when I started to panic.
Around the same time I had been delving into the endless world of Pinterest in order to find ideas for decorating and upcycling my office on the cheap. Whilst spiralling down that hole, I saw the monetary potential in blogging. So I started blogging. Needlessly. That’s not to say it’s all been needless – I actually quite like writing about composition and those sorts of things – but there is seriously no need for me to write about “5 tips for frugality,” “5 tips for working in isolation” and what not. That time would be better spent doing literally anything else. But I was panicking – trying to jump start things that could create some passive income. I even pinned my blogs (seriously, who on Pinterest is looking for ideas on 12-tone music? No one).
I eventually clawed myself out of my fear and realized that the social-media-ing was taking me away from what I really wanted to do – writing music! Studying music! If I am in a place where I need to take time away from music to try to earn more money, then I should crawl back to the library and beg for my old job back! Plain and simple. So while this was a misstep, it was a good lesson learned!
Ah, and while we’re on the topic of things I set up while in a panic, I do have an account on Patreon. Patreon allows your fans to monetarily support you on a monthly basis while receiving exclusive content. You can show your support to your favourite artists for as low as $2/mos! Interested? Click here! (shameless plug – ting!)
But when I wasn’t panicking or blogging, I did get a lot of composing done! I wrote a ReImagined Mozart aria for the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and Collectif, and a Trio Fantasy for the Strata Festival of New Music (both performances postponed due to the corona virus). I finished a new guitar piece that I am busily practicing so I can create a fun video-art piece, and I found some time to tackle a fun experiment with 12-tone music and quintessential spa music (see here, here, and here!).
As I’ve been writing, though, I’ve become acutely aware of how disconnected I sometimes feel to what I’m writing. My harmonic or musical choices don’t always feel overly informed. It feels like I’m shooting aimlessly, and then configuring whatever happenstance material I come up with into a piece of music. Now, this is a valid compositional technique, but I don’t feel it’s the best nor most efficient technique – and it certainly shouldn’t be the only technique. I would rather feel I was making more informed choices about what I’m doing.
New paragraph – stay with me – it will be related to that last one!
I also tried my hand at a huge orchestration project for a competition. This was the first large scale orchestration project I had done since I took my university classes three years ago. As I worked through it, I definitely felt like I was in way over my head. Trying to write material for so many instruments was overwhelming. I’m not even sure much of it was good. I still submitted it, but I think I was out of my depth with that one! Oh well – it was a great exercise and it helped get my orchestration muscles flexing in preparation for the High School Band piece I’m presently working on (if you would like to contribute to the commission consortium, click here to read more).
As a result of my orchestration projects, and my struggling through composing, I think I’m going to mostly focus on chamber works for a while. I truly want to sink my teeth into writing better developed ideas with smaller forces. And happily, I will get to do just that in the Fall! Thanks to SK Arts, I have been funded to write a new piece of music for Wind Quintet, and I will be be collaborating with Saskatoon ensemble, Mistral 5! So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to SK Arts! Your support means to world to me!!
Now does this desire to focus on smaller ensembles mean that I would pass up a commission for a new high school band piece? Absolutely not! I’ll revel in the challenge! But in the meantime, I’m going to focus in on some of the basics again.
This year I have also learned how to be way more assertive and a little more daring. By the suggestion of a friend, I started organizing my first Commission Consortium for High School Band. This meant that I had to “cold call” (or rather cold e-mail) people I barely knew or didn’t know at all to let them know about my project and ask for their support. Has it been overly successful? Slightly – I have two contributors. But in the way its been most successful is that it got me trying something that is way out of my comfort zone. Of all the things I thought I might learn this year, reaching out to people I don’t know for a commission was not one of them.
So overall, this first half year has been amazing! It has been stressful, and scary, but it has also been incredibly rewarding and deeply fulfilling! My whole life I have wanted to be writing music for a living, and for a lot of my life, I let the opinions of others convince me to do the opposite. But now that I have finally taken this huge risk and I am composing full-time, I truly feel like myself. I don’t think I could ever go back to working somewhere more conventional (or more ‘socially acceptable’). Six months in, I know that this is what I am supposed to be doing with my life!
So for those of you who have been tuning in to my social media and blog pages, you may be asking “What is all this Babbit Square nonsense about anyway?” And your future self will be asking “Why are you still posting Babbit Squares????!” To answer the latter, because it’s fun! I’m also a huge nerd. Deal with it.
How to Babbit
or more formally
How to fill in a Babbit Square
I imagine that your first question is, "What on earth is a Babbit Square?" and once I tell you what it is your question will likely be "Why on earth would you do this?" To answer your second question, for fun!!! And theoretical purposes, but more on that later.
Changing my paper topic a
week before the deadline
Ah, the writing process. Hours and hours of painstaking work all to be thrown out because inspiration strikes. New inspiration. Completely different inspiration. Not just a tangent – an entirely new avenue. Why did this inspiration wait until the eleventh hour to show up and not, you know, two months ago? Who knows.
So as I’ve been working on my “Trio Fantasy” for the Strata Festival of New Music, it seems that every bit of material I work on wants to wind up here: