Horn Symposium Update No. 1

After traveling to Los Angeles yesterday, today was my first full day at the 47th International Horn Symposium, hosted by Andrew Bain and Annie Bosler at the Colburn School. I plan to post daily updates to this website, and while these can’t provide a complete picture, hopefully they will at least give a general sense of the wide variety of events taking place this week.

General Thoughts

  • My general impression upon arriving at the Colburn School was that the symposium was in full swing! I found out at the registration desk that there were over 600 horn players in attendance already. The official registration numbers are not in yet, but suffice it to say that this year’s symposium is very well attended!
  • The facilities, staff, and overall organization at the Colburn School have been fantastic so far. Bravo to hosts Bosler and Bain for putting together a terrific week of lectures, concerts, master classes, and other activities. Everything I’ve attended thus far has run very smoothly, with the transitions between events happening quickly and seamlessly. This is not always the case at large conferences.
  • While a majority of the events at the symposium are held on the Colburn campus, a few concerts will IMG_0917take place in the surrounding area: Disney Concert Hall (seen from my dorm window in the picture at right), The Hollywood Bowl, and other assorted venues. For someone not used to negotiating travel in a large city, this can be a little daunting. However, the symposium hosts have gone above and beyond to ensure that plenty of information is available for those who are unsure of how to get around.
  • This is a very tech savvy symposium, with a great website and several events being live-streamed at http://ihs-live.com.
  • Travel – my experience getting to this year’s symposium was pretty good. Air travel can be challenging with a musical instrument, but I’ve had success with a Marcus Bonna ultralight case. Though this “soft top” case doesn’t offer the same protection as a completely fiber glass one, it does have the advantage of being able to fit either under the seat or in the overhead compartment of many small commercial aircraft, including the Embraer ERJ 145 and similar.

What I did Today

Choosing which concerts and events to attend at an IHS symposium is like picking a meal from a menu filled with only your favorite dishes. There is no way to fit in everything, even though all of the choices look appealing. That being said, I tried to attend a variety of events today, choosing to leave some events a few minutes early to sneak into others. Here’s a rundown on what I attended today, with brief summaries.

  • Lecture: Combining Modern Acoustics: A Horn Player’s Experience and Craftsmanship at Horn Making (Engelbert Schmid) Since I play a Schmid double horn, I was very interested to attend Herr Schmid’s presentation. It was fascinating to hear how his philosophy on horn playing and building has influenced his horn designs over the years. Though others may disagree with his views on horn sound, weight, and general design, I think we could all agree that he executes his horn designs with precision, confidence, and artistry.
  • Lecture: Time Spaces/Sound Spaces/Harmonielehre (Randall Faust) This interactive session was presented by my friend and colleague Dr. Randall Faust of Western Illinois University. Using his own etudes as demonstration materials, Dr. Faust explained various ways that horn players can improve rhythmic and pitch accuracy.
  • Lecture: Low-Horn Playing in a Major Orchestra (Daniel Katzen) This was a very interesting talk, presented by Daniel Katzen, former second horn of the Boston Symphony, and now on the faculty at the University of Arizona. Having never met Mr. Katzen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He began his session by playing a portion of a Bach Cello Suite in the original key. His playing in the low register was expressive, fluid, and quite impressive! He followed up with some anecdotes and helpful hints based on his 40 year career as an orchestral musician. In addition to being a remarkable horn player Mr. Katzen also has a keen sense of humor!
  • Performance: World Premiere of Gary Schocker’s In Arkadia: Our afternoon performance of Gary Schocker’s In Arkadia for Horn and Harp was very well received, and I’m excited that so many seemed to enjoy the piece. Several people spoke with me after the performance, and expressed interest in performing it themselves. Thanks again to composer Gary Schocker, and to the IHS Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund for helping to make this performance possible!
  • Evening Concert: Frank Lloyd, Jeff Nelsen, Gail Williams, Julie Landsman, Jennifer Montone, Tim Jones, and more! Today finished up with a concert featuring some of the stars of the horn world, playing a variety of virtuosic music. It was particularly interesting to hear so many different sound concepts, ranging from big and warm to clear and distinct. I heard several pieces which were new to me on the first half of the program, including James Stephenson’s Sonata for Horn and Piano (performed by Gail Williams and Kay Kim), and David Ludwig’s Six Haikus for Horn and Piano (performed by Jennifer Montone and Jennie Jung). Though I would have liked to stay for the entire concert, I was already exhausted from a long day and decided to head back to my room at intermission. The upside of leaving a bit early is that I had time to put together today’s report.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, full of many more exciting events. Highlights for me will be checking out some of the exhibit rooms, and attending the LA Philharmonic concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Stay tuned for more updates!

Notes on a Commission: Gary Schocker’s In Arkadia for Horn and Harp

In my Summer Plans post last week I mentioned the upcoming premiere of In Arkadia, a new work for horn and harp by Gary Schocker. Harpist Jaymee Haefner and I recently had our first rehearsal for the performance, which is scheduled for August 3 at the 47th International Horn Symposium in Los Angeles, CA. After hearing the work with both parts, we’re even more excited about performing it. I think it will be received very well, and become a substantial addition to the repertoire for these two instruments. Here’s a bit of background on the commissioning process for In Arkadia.

In December of 2012, I collaborated with Dr. Haefner, who teaches harp at the University of North Texas, for a recording of Jan Koetsier’s Sonata for Horn and Harp. We enjoyed performing and recording the piece very much, and in the fall of 2013 began discussing plans to commission a multi-movement work for horn and harp. Here are some of the criteria that we developed in the course of those early discussions.

  • Multiple movements, 10-15 minutes in length
  • Accessible, though not necessarily traditional
  • Commission a well-known composer who understands how to write for both harp and horn

Based on these general guidelines, we began the process of contacting various composers who might be a good fit. Our funding was not yet confirmed, but Jaymee and I did have a rough idea of the budget we would be working with. One name that kept coming up was Gary Schocker, an internationally known composer and flutist. A colleague of mine had worked with Mr. Schocker before, and he came highly recommended. He has composed extensively for harp, and also has a few compositions for horn. This turned out to be an important issue, because a few of the composers we contacted stated that they were simply not comfortable writing for the harp. It didn’t take long for us to decide that Gary was the right person for the job. The next step, funding the project!

There are many ways to fund commissions and other creative projects: crowd-sourcing (Kickstarter, GoFundMe, etc.), external grants (state level, national level, other organizations), internal grants (university), consortia, or a combination of the above. In our case, we funded In Arkadia with two grants, one from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund, and another from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Both grants required a written application, including a detailed description of the project and a budget. If you are interested in your own commissioning project, see the end of this article for more information and suggestions on getting started.

After securing funding for the project, Mr. Schocker began composing. He worked incredibly fast, and both Jaymee and I had ample opportunity to offer input and suggestions. The result is a beautiful, atmospheric piece. It is tonal/modal, with hints of impressionism. The horn writing is quite nice, playable, but not without some challenges (which I like). Here are the movement titles.

In Arkadia for Horn and Harp, Gary Schocker (b. 1959)
1. Dryads Dance
2. Nyctimus
3. Kallisto
4. Cynaethus
5. Lycaon

Mr. Schocker also provided the following program notes.

In Arkadia was titled, as is my usual way, after the piece was written. I don’t intentionally try to turn literary or visual ideas into sound, rather I take what the music suggests when written and then find words to describe the tone.

In Arkadia. Here is the land of Pan and the place is free of any humans,ahh. There is a central myth about King Lykaon who served his dead son to Zeus (who was not amused), but the music does not try to recreate that gory story. Rather the names of various characters  have a sound which go with corresponding movements.

The harp is a new love of mine, and having been harping now for several years has informed my writing for the instrument. Never having played the horn I rely entirely on my experience as a flutist, my ear, and guidance from James. ~Gary Schocker

I also asked Mr. Schocker for permission to share a few clips from our recent rehearsal, and he generously agreed. Here are two short clips from the third and fifth movements of In Arkadia. Both recordings are live and unedited, although I added a small amount of reverb to the files since we were not rehearsing in a concert hall.

Movement 3

Movement 5

After hearing the recording of our rehearsal, Gary had some wonderful suggestions, as well as a few minor changes to the score. This is one of the great things about working with living composers – if they don’t like something, they can just change it! Commissioning a new work is a great experience, and something I am definitely interested in doing again.

To finish out this article, here are some suggestions and resources for commissioning compositions.

Further Reading

Other Thoughts on Commissioning a Composition

  • Decide what you want, and with whom you want to work. The more details you have in hand about your proposed commission, the better positioned you will be to find interested composers and secure funding.
  • Seek out funding in a variety of places, crowd-sourcing (Kickstarter, GoFundMe, etc.), external grants (state level, national level, other organizations), internal grants (university), and consortia.
  • For grant applications and other funding opportunities, be able to clearly and concisely explain why your project requires funding. Will the proposed work create or explore a previously under-recognized repertory? Will it bring together various disciplines (artistic or otherwise)? Above all, be excited about your project, and learn how to communicate that excitement in both written and verbal terms.
  • During the composition process, stay in contact with the commissioned composer. Offer to help by trying out new ideas and recording them for the composer to listen to. Make constructive comments about what you think does and does not work for your instrument.
  • Once the composition is completed, premiere it! Apply to perform at a regional, national, or international conference. Share information about your project and get others excited about it.
%d bloggers like this: