Thursday, June 22, 2006

An Invitation: The First Online Book of Consort Lessons

Quite a few composers write ensemble pieces in an "open" format. The instrumentation is not fixed beforehand, and can be played by a variety of ensembles. Others aspects of the work may be open as well: the form may be modular, with the order of parts, numbers of repetitions, or total duration variable; it could be composed of a single line that becomes an ensemble (think In C) or already divided into parts, equale or with contrasting ranges.

There have been collections of music in the past -- the Attaignant Dance Prints or the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book or C.F. Peter's collection of Walzes -- through which one can get a playable snapshot of musical activity in a single environment. I propose now to do the same for our contemporary consort music and to put online a collection of scores for ensembles with variable or flexible instrumentation.

So here's an invitation to send me a PDF file of a score, which will be put online at a site to be established. This is not a commercial publication offer, no commissions are offered and none will be paid, all composers will retain whatever rights that they assign to the own scores. (Advice: put a clear copyright notice, clearly identifying the title, your name, the copyright year, the name of your rights organization - ASCAP, BMI, GEMA etc. - and add some information on how to contact the composer in order to directly report any performances.) (Please send scores by email to djwolf ATTTT snafu DOTTTT de with "Consort" in the subject line.)

The purpose of this project is, first and foremost, to get pieces played, and the possibilities of reaching professional players in this way are real and serious. However, I will admit to an ambition beyond that, perhaps a naive ambition: wouldn't it be extremely cool to get together in the evening with a handful of musician friends, download some of the latest scores for open ensemble, and just play some music? Composers of "serious" music have been undervaluing amateur (in the best sense of the word) music-making lately, and the distinction between the music played by amateurs and professionals strikes me as artificial, a remnant of the 19th century masterwork ethic, with a discouraging effect on the prospects for building a repertoire that reaches across a continuum of performance conditions. If this project works out, we can think about a similar book of music for piano, or four-handed piano, or percussion, or flute, or recorder, or a book of songs or madrigals, but let's try this now and hear what happens.

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