Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
the daily events and musings of Jim.
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and serves as a online repository for his random
thoughts, kaleidoscopic flashbacks, and writings on an array of diverse topics.
“Deconstructing Jim” is simply here to
entertain you, but not intended for college credit.

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Chapel Hill, NC, United States

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Living the "Glamorous" Life of an American Composer

Even before I can sit down to compose, I've got administrative chores, distractions, and deadlines to meet.

My annual application for a commission from Harvard just went out the door. It requires a written proposal, CV, score, a glowing recommendation from someone prestigious, and a recording of the piece submitted. It also requires a signed letter of commitment from a performing organization - should the piece actually be commissioned by Harvard and written by me.

Wish me luck, but I have applied nearly every year for decades. Applying for this commission annually has become one of my many little rituals as I nurture my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The results wont be announced until October.

I've also got my work cut out for me reviewing the takes from a recording session of my 24 year old String Quartet. The piece was recently performed by a fabulous group of musicians, and they later took the piece into the "studio" for a recording session at Clark University in Worcester MA.

From left to right, Krista (violin I), Rohan (violin II), Jan (cello), and Peter (viola).

Matt, the recording engineer (also a composer)

So my job in the next few weeks is to listen to all of the raw material and try to decipher which takes are the best. It's a big piece, comprising of four movements and totalling 20 minutes of music. The numerous takes are generally just a few measures long. But, I need to carefully review two-day's worth of recordings and make difficult decisions about how they will ultimately fit together. It's interesting to re-familiarize myself with the details of something I wrote nearly a quarter of a century ago. But, the music is surprisingly fresh in my mind.

The editing sessions are tentatively scheduled for late August, and the piece will be digitally assembled and enhanced using the latest version of Pro Tools. I already know that I'd like to add some additional hall-resonance (reverb) to into the final mix.

I'm excited about the final product, since the quartet sounded really great during the recording sessions. But taking the final master to commercial recording companies for release and distribution will be the next challenge. The recording industry is mucho depressed at the moment, and the prospects for a commercial release are quite"iffy." These projects usually require a grant from a foundation, and that would be yet another hurdle to navigate.


And then there is the act of creating a new piece, which for me has always been very hard work and an extremely daunting process. I can't just turn it on like a faucet. I need lots of coffee and to get into the groove.

But at least I know who I'm writing the piece for: a Danish Trio consisting of Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano. Simply by nature of the instruments, this is going to be an unusual work.


I'll keep you posted about the progress of these musically-related projects, but it's time to stop blogging and actually get down to the "Bat Cave" to slave in the heat! I feel blessed to have the time to do this self-indulgent work, and I'm not going to squander it.