This is a post from National Symphony Orchestra bassist Jeff Weisner. Jeff also teaches bass at The Peabody Institute in Baltimore and co-authors the blog PeabodyDoubleBass. Click here for all of Jeff’s doublebassblog.org posts.
(Note to readers: I can’t count and apparently skipped directly from Part II to Part IV. Too bad – Part III will just have to become part of bass blogging legend…)
So, you’ve decided that you want to try this commissioning thing. Maybe my brilliant arguments have won you over. Maybe you have a composer friend who won’t stop bugging you about writing a piece for you. Or maybe you’re so sick of practicing your Koussevitsky Concerto that you’re willing to try almost anything else. In any event, you’re ready to connect with a composer and create some new bass repertoire.
So, where do you go? Where do these composers live, anyway? And how do you find composers who write stuff that you might like to play?
Here are a few tips and resources to get you started.
1. Your local university music school or conservatory – For almost anyone attending or living near a music school, this is a great place to start. Almost every school has a composition department full of people who are highly motivated to write music. And composition students in particular will often write you a piece for free if you’re willing to play it somewhere. Find out the names of the faculty and get in touch with them. They can often refer you to a student. Better yet, go to a composition department recital or performance and check out the students’ music for yourself. Then, approach them in person about writing a piece.
2. New music concerts – Most big cities, and many smaller ones too, have some group of performers or composers who present a concert series of new works. Check out your local arts listings for them and go hear a concert. They’re usually not expensive and often feature local composers. This may end up overlapping with option 1 as many new music series are sponsored by music schools.
3. The Internet – As with almost everything these days, the new music scene on the Internet is thriving and growing by leaps and bounds. The number of composers with excellent, easy-to-navigate websites is growing every day. The vast majority of these have streaming or downloadable sound samples of their music on them so that you can check out their sound. If you like a composer you can check out their works list to see if they already have a piece for bass. And composers often have a “links” page that can connect you to composers that that composer likes; these composers often (no surprise) write in a similar style to the composer who linked to them. Here are some great sites to get you started:
American Composers’ Forum – This Minnesota-based organization advocates for composers around the country. Check out the “Members and Events” pages for alphabetical lists of composers with website links.
Thomas Moore New Music Links – Mr. Moore has assembled a gigantic database of composers on the Web that is an invaluable resource for browsing and exploration.
The Rest is Noise – One of my “must read” blogs, from the music critic of the New Yorker. Great links page.
Good luck and happy hunting! Go help make some new music for our instrument, and drop me a line to let me know how it’s going.