Composer Spotlight – Melody Eötvös, Winner of First Toulmin Foundation Commission

Melody Eötvös is an Australian-born composer of both multimedia and traditional works who lives in Bloomington, Indiana. Last Fall, ACO’s EarShot and The League of American Orchestras selected her and composer Julia Adolphe as winners of a $15,000 commission supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Melody was kind enough to answer some questions about the commission and her experience at EarShot.

Composer Melody Eötvös. Photo credit: Grant Heger

American Composers Orchestra: You participated in the 2014 Underwood New Music Readings with your selected piece Beetles, Dragons & Dreamers. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in the workshop and anything you took away?

Melody Eötvös: My experience with the American Composers Orchestra in June last year for the Underwood New Music readings was fantastic.  I’ve always been a little hesitant about going to New York (that was my first visit ever) but this was the perfect reason to finally take the plunge.  Focusing for those three days on ACO, the other composer fellows, and being able to network with other professionals during the career sessions made the experience extremely valuable and a huge game changer in the way that I think about writing for orchestra, as well as how I prepare my parts, edit my score, and reach out to publishers, conductors, and organizations.  Working with ACO, George Manahan, and Michael Geller was one of the most rewarding workshops I have ever participated in. The orchestra was incredibly efficient and precise during rehearsals and were able to accomplish wonders with my piece in such a short amount of time.  

ACO: What was your reaction to hearing you had won a $15,000 commission supported by the Toulmin Foundation from the League of American Orchestras and ACO’s EarShot?

ME: This is a huge honor and I remember meeting several representatives of the Toulmin Foundation during the Underwood Readings and thinking how amazing it would be to receive one of the awards. To actually be one of the first recipients of this commission is mind-blowing to say the least.  Once the news had sunk in though I began thinking about the immensity of the task ahead of me.  I was still on a high (and still am!), but I was also beginning to realize what this huge opportunity meant. I’ve written four orchestral works, and each of them were highly experimental and mainly focused on testing out sounds and timbres that I like.  With this commission though I know that I have to be confident about the solidarity and structure of the piece at all times… no more student writing!  It’s taking a lot of preparation, thought, self-analysis, and chewing so far.  

ACO: Obviously it’s still early, but can you tell us anything about the piece you are writing for the commission?

ME: Well, I’m always turning to literature and biological sources for inspiration, and this piece is still going to be connected to those places.  Because I’m focusing more on the music though, and less on narrative influences, the result is going to be very interesting, or at least that’s what i hope!  The instrumentation is also a lot lighter than what I’ve worked with before in an ‘orchestral’ mid-set, so that will play a huge part in the resulting sound as well.

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