Monday, July 23, 2012

reflections on the soundSCAPE festival

A week ago today, I left Maccagno, Italy, where I had participated in the soundSCAPE Festival, an intensive festival for composers and performers. After a few days in Milan, then Atlanta, I'm finally home in Gainesville (FL), with some time to relax and reflect.

First of all, I cannot recommend this festival enough for emerging composers and "new music" performers. We had a packed schedule of great events, and the camaraderie that developed was awesome. I didn't know quite what to expect before I went, as I think I found only one blog from a participant's perspective, so hopefully this will reach a few prospective participants for 2013 and beyond (feel free to drop me a line with any questions).

The basic schedule of my days: wake up around 630, have some coffee and then some cardio workout run by guest guitarist Robert Bekkers (we did some leg-killing military drills the first day and a lot of people gave up on this...I took a few days to recover, then had some fun one-on-one boxing training a few times). A quick shower, and off to the composition colloquium at 8am.

The colloquium featured 2-3 of the participant composers each day, who had 30 minutes to present some music, followed by 15-30 minutes of discussion. Most participants played 2 pieces in their entirety, though a few us (me included) presented excerpts from several pieces to show a better view of our work. Composition coordinator Brian Hulse led the discussions about the works, which were great - leaning towards the philosophical and away from the mundane "how did you pick your notes" discussions so often found in these situations. The presentations/discussions really helped everyone get a sense of each others' approach and aesthetic, and it was a very warm and supportive environment with an eclectic mix of styles.

I usually had 1030-230 free, and much of this was spent back at "the Casa" eating a brunch and chatting with folks. The Casa Emmaus is a religious retreat, and we lived dorm-style with around 8 people in each 2-bedroom 'apartment' with a shared bathroom. So it was sort of a summer camp with a lot of wine, if that helps you picture things :).

A few times during the 1030-230 block I had rehearsals of my piece, Tearmunn for horn and vibraphone. These went great - the second and third were coached by faculty performers Lisa Cella and Aiyun Huang, who both had great ideas and suggestions.

At 230 each day was the improv workshop, led by Tom Rosenkranz. We began by playing Zorn's Cobra before moving on to looser structures. This was a lot of fun, and a good opportunity to get some performing in. One day we walked to a spot part of the way up the mountain with a nice view of the lake to perform. On the next-to-last day of the fest we had a 30-minute performance of a few short 'provs' in the Auditorium, followed by a sweet 45-minute performance of John Cage's Songbooks.

The afternoon, 315-600 block was a little different each day. There were several presentations by the faculty (Brian Hulse, Marcella Pavia, Josh Levine) and guest artists Sela Roder and Lei Liang. Also squeezed into this time were individual lessons from the faculty for the participant composers. We met at the local cafe and gelateria for these, which were both chill and informative.

Most nights we had two concerts, one at 6pm and another at 9pm. In between was dinner, which sometimes I made at the Casa but sometimes were at some of the local restaurants. The most popular of these were the takeaway "Pizza 2000" and the sit-down "Lake Pizza" (Pizza 2000 is the actual name, but we could never remember the name of the second one, hence the affectionate nickname. It had a great view of Lago Maggiore). The evening concerts were a mix of premieres by the composers, contemporary works chosen by the performers, and concerts by the faculty and guest artists.

Following the late concert I sometimes had to crash but sometimes joined in on the late night wine hangouts. Some people have more energy than me and did this every night! I was the second-oldest participant (31), so go figure... ;)

There are of course more specific stories and fun things to tell, but I hope this gives a glimpse into this excellent, well-run, friendly festival. I highly, highly recommend attending!