Underwood New Music Readings – Joshua Groffman: Before the Readings

Before the Readings – April 3, 2013

Composer Participants, Mentor Composers
& George Manahan

The Underwood New Music Readings promise to be an intense three days, but until they get under way next week, there’s not much left for me to do.  The score and parts for my piece, Music for elsewhere, are made, printed, bound, and in the right hands, travel plans are in place, and all seems well.

The readings are particularly exciting because with a piece for orchestra, it’s almost impossible to really know what it will sound like until you hear it played live.  I have a general idea, of course; a big part of a composer’s training, after all, is honing the ability to “hear” pieces in our heads.  But I have to confess that a lot of this piece will be as much a revelation to me in performance as to the audience.  I deliberately took some risks with Music from elsewhere, trying out ideas for forms and textures that I’d never used before.  Too, the sound of the orchestra is such a multifaceted, infinitely-variable thing that I find composing for it a little like crossing the ocean by dead reckoning – I start knowing approximately which way to go but without any certainty that I’ll be able to find my way there.  

Joshua Groffman

So despite the fact that I lived with the piece, all day, every day for six months, Monday will be the start of really getting to “know” it.  Maybe it will sound exactly as I’ve imagined it or maybe my inner ear will have taken me wildly off-course; most likely, it will be somewhere in between.  In any case, it’s a thrilling prospect.  After all, the places we find without a compass are usually more rewarding than the intended destination was ever going to be. 

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