EarShot San Diego New Music Readings: Blog 1 – David Kirkland Garner

David Kirkland Garner
I am thrilled to be participating in the EarShot new music readings with the San Diego Symphony along with fellow composers Adam Greene, Paul Frucht and Chi-Hui Jen. As I write, I sit in my hotel room exhausted after a long and exciting day of activities having just finished my errata sheet for tomorrow’s public reading. A quick recap of our day:
The morning began with quick meetings with our distinguished mentor composers Robert Beaser, John Corigliano and Rand Steiger and wonderful maestro James Feddeck to discuss any potential problems with our scores.
Next came the first of two reading sessions lasting 2.5 hours with roughly 30 minutes per piece. Everyone’s first reaction is the same: the orchestra sounds wonderful. The first piece read was Adam Greene’s In Winter in which the orchestra gracefully maneuvered the delicate timbre shifts in his icy landscape. Next, Paul Frucht’s Penumbra is ripe with beautifully orchestrated bright flourishes that sweep throughout the orchestra. After a quick break the orchestra picked up Chen-Hui Jen’s yet the dew remains in pale. Prickly walls of sound emerge and retract in a mist of subtle and intricate gestures. My piece, the Machine, was next. My piece is characterized by repetitive figures that build to a frenzy only to release into another machine texture. At the time I think I was too nervous and excited to use my ears, but throughout the rest of the afternoon the reading sunk in and I was able to make some slight changes and adjustments for tomorrow’s reading. 
After the readings we had an extensive and informative feedback session with the SDS librarian and a group of musician liaisons. The instrumentalists gave specific reactions based on forms filled out by the orchestra after each piece. It was extremely beneficial to be able to sit down with the players right after the readings for a talk. The main theme of the session was clear: less is more. Many of the performers spoke about spots throughout the scores where us composers gave too much information that made performing overly complicated–the cello section mentioned a note with three different subtle directions. It seems, in the world of limited orchestra rehearsal time we composers must be as efficient as possible in every aspect of our piece. After a tour of Copley Hall led by informed San Diego Symphony staff, we met for happy hour around the corner. 
More to come tomorrow!

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