Commissions 2020: Expanding My Horizons
My dear readers, friends, colleagues, and peers,
I’ve had the time of my life in 2019 working with a series of commissioners on new works and bringing many of my 2018 pieces to the stage for the first time. By my best count, I’ve written almost an hour of music this year, and I’ve begun to explore new artistic directions that really excite and challenge me. As we move toward 2020 (and onward!), I’m looking forward to continuing to build on my current practice and dive deeper into my own voice.
Over the last several years, it’s become increasingly clear that the work I love creating the most doesn’t fall under standard “contemporary classical” boundaries. Realistically, most of it falls somewhere under the New Music umbrella, which does save space for classical- and jazz-adjacent things but allows me to pick and choose which pieces of tradition or time-traveling sonic nonsense I want to include alongside the modern developments that make my heart sing 24/7. For people who know me well, this isn’t a huge surprise, but the wonderful folks who commission me aren’t even always people I’ve met. (Which, for the record, is amazing.) I love working with new collaborators just as much as I enjoy reconnecting with folks from years past, and my catalog is starting to reflect that in some really exciting ways.
That said, my compositional voice today doesn’t sound like it did two or three or five years ago, and as I continue trying to move toward the artist I want to be, I need to point that out. Those of you who knew me (and my writing) in undergrad might not know how I sound now (unless you’ve been keeping up with me online, in which case, you’re awesome). While there are still pieces in my back catalog I love dearly and plenty more I’m still proud of, it’s worth pointing out that I’m not necessarily writing that way all the time anymore. Commissions might involve text alongside notes or in lieu of them entirely. I’m playing with noises and soundscapes and text instructions and concert-theater-aligned ideas, and while some of that does still involve regular notes and rhythms, it isn’t always in the way you’d think. (Exhibit A: People Talk.)
And as my commission calendars start to organize themselves for 2020 and 2021, I’m making an effort to continually work toward making the art at the top of my wish list whenever possible (or, at least, art that’s consistent with my current voice). And while some of that is work for me or some of the long-term collaborators I work with, I’m hoping some of that will be for all of you, too. These might not be pieces you can turn around in a month and a half for a recital (or they might be, but not for the reasons you think). These might be pieces that require you to search as deeply within yourself and your own practice as I’m searching in mine. They might not be instantly-consumable, you-can-throw-this-together-in-a-couple-rehearsals bites of music and sound—and if they are, they’ll probably be utilizing different skill sets and making different requests of your musicianship.
If you mostly play contemporary classical (or mostly jazz), don’t freak out. I’ve got room for you in all of this, too. It’ll just require some trust, some willingness to venture beyond your comfort zone, and a good faith effort.
So, with all that said, I want to take a moment to highlight some projects I’d love to take on in the next year or two. If what you’re looking for isn’t necessarily on here, don’t worry—I’m still down to talk and figure out what you’re hoping to commission! These are just the ideas that are making me really happy right now and might be the perfect fit for someone else out there:
- As I live with a trombonist who is a somewhat willing guinea pig when I’m trying things out, I will be writing more trombone music. I will probably end up with more ideas than I know what to do with. Please commission me, trombonists. Y’all are fun and a little weird and I like hanging out with you.
- I want to do another assault/trauma-based large ensemble piece with narrator (probably wind ensemble, probably grade 4-4.5ish) in time to get played during election season. This would probably be a consortium—my first one ever!
- (This probably goes without saying, but if you want to commission a Letters from the Aftermath project, please hit me up.)
- I’m also considering a consortium to do a suite of brass quintet ballads (with maybe the odd waltz thrown in). When I do write music more akin to my work four years ago, it tends to be slow and focused. I’d like to take advantage of that tendency and write some on purpose.
- I’d love to do more text pieces (à la Take What You Want and Your Mouse God Is Dead), but I’d also just love to work with vocalists more generally, so I’m flexible as far as types of sound production. (I’ve also got two pieces for voice ensembles awaiting premieres, so if you want something new without a commission price tag, go look at call it an accident and all in a row.)
- I’m also looking to work more on pieces that unravel over time, sort of like Shatter the Heavens or anything from the newly-developing LETTING GO opus. These tend to be really fun and rewarding but not necessarily rhythmically demanding. They aren’t flashy in a look-how-many-notes-I-can-play way, but I love them dearly and desperately want to do more in that regard.
- I’m going to be writing more text scores (different from text pieces above—here we’re talking about “I give you directions in English and you follow those”), but I’d love to write more pieces that sit right on that line of being part standard notation, part text instruction. These tend to have room for improvisation and more performer creativity; current pieces I have like this include You Probably Don’t Remember Me, Zero G (which doesn’t have text instructions so much as it just has improv sections), Uncompliant, and a forthcoming piece for Spark Duo called Pushing Back.
- Short pieces for any instrumentation: 3’ and under. (These have far more potential to be short-term, lower-budget projects.)
- As always, I love working with brass and voices, but I’m hoping to keep my catalog diverse, so if you’ve got other ideas, I’m all ears!
If you’ve read this far, thanks for coming with me on this crazy ride. For those folks looking for new work from me but don’t necessarily have the budget on your side for a commission, I do still have a few pieces that are complete, available, and waiting on premieres. Check out the full list in my full catalog. Regardless of how or why you arrived, though, I’m glad to have you onboard, and I can’t wait to share another year of music and activism with y’all. Next week’s post is cute and straightforward, so this is me signing off for the decade. Whatever’s coming next, I’m glad we’re facing it together.
All my best,
Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, check back again soon, and consider subscribing to my mailing list (at the bottom of the page or in the sidebar) for quarterly update emails on my biggest projects. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.