Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Thursday, 9 January 2003

Statement of Purpose - bigger, better!

When I was in high school, I had to decide between pursuing a career in computer programming or in professional tuba playing. On the advice of my tuba teacher, I chose computer science. I went to Mills College to study Computer Science, but very quickly found myself gravitating to the Center for Contemporary Music. I studied electronic music with Maggi Payne. She taught synthesis techniques on a large Moog Modular Synthesizer. The sound and the possibilities for music making were incredible. I had some limited exposure to New Music before I went to college, thanks to an excellent community radio station, but was not aware of it other than casually listening to noise bands.

The music classes I took at Mills changed everything I thought about sound and music creation. Even though Mills is a liberal arts college, I took almost nothing but Computer Science classes and Music classes. At the end of my sophomore year, my advisor informed me that I had completed all of the classes required for my major and that I needed to either take all the rest of my classes outside of the Math and Computer Science department or transfer to a different school. I calculated how many units that I needed to graduate and how many additional music classes it would take to major in music and decided to double-major.

Taking all of the lower-division theory classes as an upper-division student was a little frustrating. I had previously taken a seminar on John Cage that was offered in conjunction with the John Cage conference that Mills hosted. The teacher told us then that we didn�t need to know music theory to be composers. Between that and the Moog I was fascinated and hooked, but then, as a major, the same teacher later explained to me that I did need to learn theory if I wanted to be a composer, at least at Mills.

After I graduated, I started a professional career in computer programming, the plan I chose for economic reasons. Economically, the plan worked out quite well and I was able to acquire a new modular synthesizer, and a nice computer with Pro-tools and some other music software on it. Otherwise, it did not work out as well as I hoped. Buying gear did not prevent music from being marginalized in my life. Despite my best efforts, it began to be a hobby rather than an avocation. Also, it was not long before I realized that studying computer science is interesting, but day-to-day programming is much less so. I had a hard time fitting in the culture of Silicon Valley. When I got laid off in 2001, instead of looking for a job right away, I decided to travel.

I spent the summer traveling in Europe. The first non-English speaking country I visited was Russia. Communication was difficult because of my inexperience, few English-speakers and an unfamiliar alphabet. While I was there, several people asked me if I spoke Esperanto. Also, by some coincidence, the route I took while traveling put me in every city in northern Europe one week behind a band called "Esperanto Desperado."

This trip was an excellent idea for me because it allowed me to escape the values of Silicon Valley. The culture there was scornful of anything related to art or culture or of anything not brand-new. This was the exact opposite of what is valuable to tourists in Europe. [For Wesleyan, talk about meeting Judy in Germany]

When I returned home, I decided to switch career tracks from computer programming to composition. I also enrolled in an Esperanto class, at Stanford. I wrote several pieces of tape music, which I submitted to several festivals. Woodstockhausen decided to play one. I decided I wanted to write more music for live performance, so I organized a percussion group and wrote some music for them. The group performed some of my work at an art opening. I also did computer consulting. I was not sure how to pull my work and aspirations together into a career.

Last spring I attended the Composing a Career Conference sponsored by the Women's Philharmonic. Almost everyone else there had a master's degree and the presenters all assumed they were speaking to a master's-level audience. Realizing that I needed more education, I started looking into graduate programs. Yours caught my interest because of your faculty [- talk about faculty.]

At [school] I hope to learn more about electronic music and also about composition for live performance. I would like to branch out into writing for live electronic performance, something that�s difficult to do with a modular synthesizer. I hope to learn more mediums for composition. I would also like to explore more writing for traditional instruments. [school] has a reputation for performance as well as composition and I hope to be able to work with some of the performers studying there.

After I graduate with a Masters degree, I hope to find success as a freelance composer. I am also interested in doing music research at a center like STEIM, IRCAM or ZKM, or a comparable center in the United States. I know that [school] could give me the skills and education necessary to achieve this goal. Your excellent reputation would also help my professional aspirations. I hope you consider me for your program.

This is much longer, but I think it's better because it actually talks about music, which is something my old one had probably too little of. It's choppy and scattered especially in the middle. I must rearrange it so the parts that go together end up together. I think I should probably cut the part about having to learn theory after being told i didn't need theory, since it's neither here nor there and it might make me look lazy, which would be bad. Do I talk too much about Esperanto? I think putting all of it next to each other would help make it more compact. It's also beside the point, but it's unusual and might make me seem more interesting. Lou Harrison is a fluent esperantist. I should definietly add something about Other Minds, especially since one of my refrences comes from there. Maybe I could work in something about speaking esperanto with Lou, or would that be silly name-dropping? Arg, I need to finish this, especially for CalArts, tomorrow! I haven't put together a portfolio yet. Some of these school want three works. How can I possibly communicate my skillset in just three works?? I think I'd better send email and ask if that's a minimum or what. I must definitely fight the urge to make a new recording to show off every possible skill at once. "This piece is written for a vocalist (note esperanto text), a synthezier, a marimba, 5 found objects, a contact microphone and a special piece of software written just for this one piece." nononono

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