A kind reader recently asked me in a comment to cover some titles of Olivier Messiaen pieces. Of course, I had to start with the Quatuor pour la fin du temps…
Premiered in Stalag VIII-A in Görlitz, Germany (currently Zgorzelec, Poland) on January 15, 1941, in front of an audience of 400 other prisoners, the Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) is one of the most iconic pieces of the 20th century repertoire.
A few tricky spots here:
pronounce the two Us in Quatuor: the first will give a [kwa] sound (an exception in French—Quatre, 4, is pronounced [katr]), while the second is a regular [ü] with protruding lips,
fin is a [i] nasal, as in vin or pain, resonating in one’s nose,
temps is a [a] nasal, as in blanc, or chant, resonating lower in one’s throat.
Over the years lots of myths have been spread about the writing and the premiere of this piece (apparently even by the composer?). I strongly recommend For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet by Rebecca Rischin that features interviews of some of the creators of the piece, Messiaen’s wife, etc.
I was attending a Marketing seminar a few weeks ago and as the presenter was discussing 30-second elevator pitches in front of an audience of young entrepreneurs I asked myself: do I have one? Have I sat down and written it? Is it rehearsed? Would I be ready to talk about my music to a person willing to commission a new piece?
So what is an elevator pitch? According to the omniscient Wikipedia:
An elevator pitch (or elevator statement) is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.
Many great resources are available online and what I could gather is that an elevator pitch is:
short: between 30 and 60 seconds, but really closer to 30.
simple: if your 82 year-old neighbor can’t understand it, there is probably something wrong. You might have to use a periphrasis to define “concert music”, or even “New Music”.
conversational: you are not selling your ’96 Toyota Corolla. It should feel like a conversation. What I’ve learned at a recent ASCAP composers workshop, is that you basically never know who is going to ask you to write a piece of music for them. One should never assume that a person is not musical, or not musically trained: there are plenty of brilliant amateur musicians that just made a different life choice but might still want to have a piece written for them. Just enjoy talking to people about music and be open to what might follow.
customized: pretty much like a resumé, do not give in to the temptation to use a template. It will take you a while to craft something that is realistic, interesting, engaging, and that represents you well (I’m still working on it as I write) but I feel it is an interesting exercise, a bit like writing one’s bio. It forces you to really think about what you are trying to achieve, and find words to explain it to people that might never have heard of Klangfarbenmelodie.
Some sources give more directions but the last point that seems important to me is that it must be practiced! Ask your friends, family, and significant others to help you drill it. Why not make a video of yourself with your smartphone ? You could even Tweet your pitch, but that’s another story.
Finally here are the sources that I’ve found on the Web to help you make your own idea about a good elevator pitch:
Part of the new generation of French composers, Eric Tanguy (born in 1968 in Caen—the capital of the Basse-Normandie region) studied with Horatiu Radulescu (from 1985 to 1988), and later at the Conservatoire de Paris with Ivo Malec and Gérard Grisey.
Nothing particularly difficult about this name: the an is a pure nasal sound while the U between the G and the Y makes it a hard sound. Here it is:
This last Friday, DETOUR went solo at the Cell. Founded in 2009 by composers Angélica Negrón, Brian Mark and Alex Temple, DETOUR programs works by emerging composers and that night, UK’s James Bester and Ireland’s Izzy O’Connell premiered works for piano by a bunch of them: Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer, Jeremy Howard Beck, Mark Buller, Robby Elfman, Lainie Fefferman, Joseph Gregorio, Tyler Harrison, T.L. Hine, Brian Mark, Joseph Rubinstein, and Tom Swafford.
From left to right: Jessica Rudman, Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer, and Jeremy Howard Beck.
The evening was taking place at The Cell, a great intimate setting for some solo piano music. James Bester was playing the first half while Izzy O’Connell was given the second. There were lots of very good things that night, starting with Joseph Gregorio’s Out the Window: in a texture reminiscent of a sped-up chordal prelude Gregorio painted a beautiful landscape in sfumato. I enjoyed the slow harmonic rhythm, and the unexpected directions that the piece successively took. One could have almost expected a countertenor vocal line to appear out of the blue, à la Win Mertens…
Brian Mark, founder and co-artistic director of DETOUR
Brian Mark, founder and co-artistic director of DETOUR, was presenting Slinding Doors, which was receiving its New York premiere that night. Two opposing forces were active in this piece: one that could sometimes be very obstinate and motoric, and another quieter and lyrical. The form was loosely based on the traditional sonata form and the “drama” was captivating from beginning to end. The sense of direction crafted in strong “vectors” in the bass during the recap was really impressive.
As a composer, are you inspired by other art forms? If so which ones?
First and foremost, spoken word and poetry. I’m a choral and voice guy through and through—I trained originally as a bass-baritone and sang in choirs from grade school through all of my university education, and now I direct the choral program at the University where I teach. So I’ve always felt a connection to words and try to write as much vocal and choral music as possible (too little as of late, but I’m working to rectify that). Secondly, film—I am not an avid movie-goer, but I do appreciate films that are conceived and executed well. Also, I have a very high regard for (well written) film music. Finally, theatre and opera. I’m picky about the shows and operas that I like; I generally go for the older musicals and not so much the newer shows, and in opera there are only a handful that I truly love, Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” being at the top of that short list.
Do you use a computer for your work? When did you start?
Yes, and I can’t imagine working without it. I’ve been using a computer for at least 15 years now. I started on a PC running Finale notation software back when that program was really starting to get noticed (at least in western PA where I went to school), and eventually found my way to the Apple Macintosh platform and Sibelius notation software.
Do you still use paper? What for?
Yes, I use pencil and paper for sketching quite a bit. I find that the exploration of motives, themes, harmonies, and ideas about shape and form, has to happen away from the computer. I also spend a lot of time just thinking about a piece in my head; most of the best music I’ll never write happens when I’m on a walk or driving a car. At a certain point I arrive at a saturation of ideas and thinking, and then I can go to the computer and start pouring notes into it, but the preliminary sketches are vital to my workflow.
As of this weekend, the latest version’s of Avid’s Sibelius, Sibelius 7, is available!
Tabbed document interface
There are a bunch of new features, but I guess the most visible one is the new tabbed document view, a bit like in Office 2010 (or 7).
Sibelius’s old menus and toolbars have been replaced with a new tabbed toolbar known as a Ribbon, allowing the program’s features to be grouped in the interface more logically, helping both new and existing users alike make more efficient use of the program.
People are already complaining about how disorienting it is—just like Office 2010 came out—but it might actually be a great way to save time and navigate faster inside the various menus. If you are a keyboard shortcut wizz, don’t worry, all the shortcuts stayed the same and you can import your own shortcut settings from Sibelius 6 quite easily…
There are some sweet improvements regarding the note input:
→ Specifying pitch before or after duration. Besides, the shadow note now shows the note value of the note chosen on the Keypad. Yes!
→ Adding lines during input
→ Adding many tuplets: introducing Sticky Tuplets (a great name for a Muse cover band…)
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