2005 July at John Mackey's Blog



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  • July 8, 2005

    Still no progress

    Even when I make an honest effort to get some work done, I run into problems. Presently, it’s software problems. I’ve been using a software sampler called MachFive, whch runs as a plugin under Digital Performer. I’m still running DP 4.12 (the current version is 4.6), and 4.12 doesn’t run well under Tiger. (Specifically, the app keeps crashing, and if it doesn’t crash, and I try to quit the program, it locks up.) I updated the MachFive plugin, hoping the newer version would be more stable, but after several crashes this morning, I’m now unable to even start up Digital Performer. Looks like I need to restart. A new stand-alone (non plugin) version of MachFive was announced in January. I wish they’d hurry up and ship it.

    At least I’ve ruled out one of possibilities I was considering for the SEC piece. I was toying with the idea of re-writing “Mass” for winds, but after playing with it a little yesterday, I’ve decided against it. It might end up sounding okay — some of it would work pretty well — but it wouldn’t be much fun to play. (Does anybody really want to play the same four pitches over and over for 12 minutes?) Ruling out that option at least reduces my choices by one. I’m still considering the “Annuals” idea, as well as a little cell of an idea that I got yesterday from an Earth, Wind & Fire song.
    I’m serious.


    July 7, 2005

    Even Tanglewood has a band

    (note: This post was written in 2005, when I was much more of a sexist asshole. Much of the humor here does not hold up…)

    Newman emailed me last night to tell me about this year’s Tanglewood schedule, which he’d picked up over the weekend. One part of Tanglewood is the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, a training program for younger musicians. We’re not sure if this is the first year they’re doing it, but this year, Tanglewood has a band. And they got the master, H. Robert Reynolds, to conduct it. This feels like quite a major stamp of approval from the titan of summer music festivals — and of “shi-shi-la-la Art” in general. As Newman said, “What’s next? The Concertgebouw Marching Cadets?”Band just gets bigger and bigger. Or maybe it’s losing weight, in the superficial sense.

    If you’re a composer who grew up wanting to write orchestra music, and you listened to Barber rather than Grainger, you probably start with the attitude that you should be writing orchestra music, and band somehow isn’t the goal. So, you marry Orchestra. Orchestra is hot. Okay, maybe not hot, but at least she’s the kind of hot that you know you should like. At the very least, she’s very pretty. And she’s really, really smart, and speaks, like, seven languages, and she knew everybody (but she only ever wants to talk about Beethoven). But you quickly realize that Orchestra thinks she’s better than you, and she acts like every minute she spends with you is come kind of charity work. You get her gifts, and shower her with attention, but you soon realize that she doesn’t appreciate you at all, and she’s neglectful, and at worst, abusive.

    And then one day, you meet Band at a party.

    “What do you do?” she asks. “Um, I’m a composer,” you reply, expecting little reaction, but Band lights up and exclaims, “oh my God, that’s HOT! Do you have any music I can play? The newer, the better! Let me get you a drink!”

    Band is loud. She’s not quite as pretty as Orchestra, and she’s a bit, shall we say, bigger-boned, but she has that truly “hot” aspect to her that Orchestra never had. And most importantly, Band loves what you do. Whereas it was like pulling teeth to get Orchestra to look at your new music (and if she looked, she was generally not impressed, often comparing you unfavorably to one of her many ex’s — like Dvorak), Band thinks it’s awesome. Band tells you things like “you’re special and perfect and I’ll appreciate you and your music like Orchestra never has, and never will.”

    What is Composer supposed to do?! Did I mention how loud and boisterous Band is? (Let’s say she’s a screamer. Totally your type.) You have a blast when you’re with her, and your friends agree that she’s a lot cooler than Orchestra, and they see how she treats you much, much better. How can Composer not be expected to stray?

    Luckily for Composer, he figured this out around the age of 30, and not much, much later. He just feels bad for all of the other Composers who haven’t yet caught on and left their dysfuncional, abusive relationships.


    July 6, 2005

    Annuals – What year?

    Now I’ve gone and confused myself (more than usual).

    I posted the scores for three movements of “Annuals” today, as well as the MP3 of the fourth movement, which hasn’t been available until now. Here’s the link, if you’re interested.

    I wrote “Annuals” in 2001, then orchestrated three of the movements in 2003 for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony. The Seattle Youth Symphony performed it in April, and I just listened to their recording. I keep going back and forth on what to do with this piece. A large part of me really wants to rewrite it for concert band, complete with antiphonal brass, and I constantly return to that idea, wondering when I’ll do that, and for what commission it would be appropriate.

    Let me backtrack… I have an idea for a piece — the piece I’m planning to write for a high school band consortium, due next March. Originally, I thought the material I was developing was going to be the piece for the SEC Conference, as that piece is due in late October, and it makes the most sense to write these pieces in order. The problem is that the material seems best-suited to the high school commission, as it’s lyrical, but not “wussy lyrical.” So, I have an idea for a piece that’s due in 9 months, but what is the piece for the SEC — which is due this fall? My first instinct is to write a percussion-driven piece for them. It’s a commission for 10 great college bands (including LSU, who gave me my early “big break”), and I want to give them a really exciting piece.

    Here’s where I’m torn. When I was listening to the finale of “Annuals” a few minutes ago — in the version for orchestra — I realized that I could easily combine the materials for what I’m planning for the high school piece with the material from Annuals. The lyrical high school piece could be a prelude to a revised finale of Annuals. That would make it all part of the SEC commission, though, meaning the percussion-driven piece would have to wait, and meaning I would no longer have an idea for the high school piece. So, that’s not ideal. What’s good about it, though, is it would allow me to use the “Annuals” material that I’ve been wanting to put into a band piece, and it would let me do it without simply just re-scoring something I’ve already written. It would be considerably different.

    I don’t know what to do. I could stick to my original plan and write a brand new piece — percussion-heavy — for the SEC, and a brand new piece — ballsy-lyrical — for the high school consortium, and hold off on Annuals for now. I could make “Annuals” the piece for the Japanese consortium in 2006… Whatever I decide, I need to do it soon, as the SEC is expecting a 10-minute piece in October.

    I’m open to suggestions… Anyone?