Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bunches of Bunnies - Bunches of Balloons - 4

How to feel like an Old Composer in three easy steps:

After studying to be a composer, attempt to have a career actually composing music.

bunch of colored balloons
2. After many years realize it isn't working, redefine yourself as a "failed composer", get a life.

colored Bunny sippy cups
3. Attain the age of 55 without controlling the inner urge to compose and then read this article entitled Writers' Block (by Chris Pasles in today's Los Angeles Times Calendar section) about a bunch of unknown younger composers attempting the same sorts of things my generation tried (plus one new one called the Internet) and snicker with the statistical near-certainty that none of them will have the slightest effect on the world of music but will most definitely get old themselves eventually, and, having resigned themselves to whatever modest level of success they might achieve, will someday read an identical article about hordes of even younger upcoming composers who will then be attacking the very same career barricades in mostly the same old ways with an equally small likelihood of success, and know that they themselves will feel their age as well.

3 mostly deflated balloons under a bench
4. Gratefully consider the fact that no one will be able to parse the thought in section 3 unless it is re-written into several shorter sentences.

In America Everyone Is A Great Artist (a 30 Second Spot)

Young Composer Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Previous M.M. B&B (Bunny & Balloon) posts: number one or number two or number three


Peter (the other) said...

This morning, on NPR, there was a report on two new (a married couple) graduates from a seminary going into a life. They mentioned that the poor couple (expecting their first in October) were probably going to have to give birth to their baby ____ in a manger, as they were only making the paltry sum of $66K a year at ages 23 and 25 (this in a very real boo-hoo tone).


I carefully cleaned up the spat out cereal, they should follow graduates from music school. How many people make a full time living composing music, in the world? It might be 1000, but I doubt it (this is following Bill Conti's dictum that you are what you do. If you teach school for a living, and compose on the side, you are a teacher). Yet how many composers are graduated with any kind of higher degree, each year? I wouldn't be surprised if that number was well in the hundreds.

Every royalty check I get, I thank a higher power (and ASCAP). I became a composer by accident (which is an old tradition in Hollywood) and am not especially deserving. But to become a composer intentionally has to be driven by a calling even greater then for the clergy. They, at least, know where they can probably eat when they graduate.

John Mackey said...

A few months ago, I was on an ASCAP panel with one of the composers featured in that article, and the panel topic was basically "how to start a career as a young composer." There was me, saying "write music for college band" (which, if you're lucky, can be somewhat lucrative). There was Eric Whitacre, saying "write for band or choir," which, for him, has been tremendously lucrative. Then there was the guy mentioned in the LA Times article, who said, essentially, "win the Rome Prize." I slapped my forehead at this revelation. Why haven't other composers thought of this?! That's what I should have done! I should probably apply for a Pulitzer, too.

I also loved that several people in that article won either the ASCAP or BMI young composer awards, as if that's a big career changer. Those were such a big deal to me in my 20s, until I won one and learned that miraculously, it doesn't mean much beyond that $750 and free wine at a reception. (Not that those aren't great things both, mind you.) Of course, you can only win an ASCAP Young Composer award if you're under 30. When I turned 29, I had a big freak-out. Oh my god! I only have ONE YEAR to become a major success! After that, I'll no longer be a Young Composer! I spent that year meeting with music consultants in NY, sending out dozens of scores, having lunch with anybody who would talk to me.

Then I turned 30, realized, well, that didn't work, fuck it -- and became much happier.