Interchanging Idioms

...from concept to concert

photo by Clare Martin

When I was much younger, playing trombone in high school in Wyoming, I dreamt I would one day write a symphony. However, life often interjected and steered me through a variety of different paths, from fatherhood, to military service and to software engineering - only to eventually end up studying music again, this time in Edinburgh.

Well, the dream is now a reality; the finishing touches to Figuratively Speaking are done, the parts are being prepared and a concert has been set for June 4th, 2008. The overall piece is a collection of cliche' which are "translated" into musical terms, figures of speech with the orchestra as the metaphor.

Initially, two years ago, I wrote the first movement thinking this would be a standard four movement symphony. The first movement, The Road goes both ways felt like a nice beginning. The concept, a single motif manipulated to the point it "goes both ways" and then some, really took off during the compositional process.

However, as I began the process of chosing the second figure of speech, there was a war between the one I thought would be second and the one which ended up second. Time flies when you're having fun wasn't actually one of the cliche's I'd originally chosen, but the melodic ideas I had for Don't tell your secrets to the fence didn't fit the title. It was eventually my daughter who told me the second movement, nearly finished sounded like too much fun to be about secrets. And so the title stuck.

And so was I. There were still three more titles I wanted to explore and I was nearly finished with the second movement. You can't catch rabbits with drums was just too good of a title (with concepts for lots of percussion) for it to go by the wayside. Don't tell your secrets... was one I felt really needed to be included. And the final piece was always set to be Water is like the sun as it culminates the symphony by bringing back all the previous motif's in such a way to show their simularities regardless of their differences.

Thus, midway through last year the symphony ended up become a five movement work. Much of the groundwork for the motif's had been done with numerous ideas already sent to the scrap pile (for use in other works possibly, but already opted out of this one). All I needed to do was actually put in the work to finish the music. I don't mean to make little of that process - but it's really a bit too much to actually post on a blog.

Once the first draft of all five movements were done, I put the entire symphony through a midi realisation attempting to get as close as possible as to what a live orchestra would sound like. I then had my wife, daughter and numerous friends listen to it for comments. And boy were there comments (not all bad, mind you). What I appreciated the most was the nuances people picked up on that I'd not noticed being too close to the compositional process.

My wife, who actually suggested our return to university to complete our education, had taken the same Bachelors of Music course. So, her comments were extremely helpful, speaking in concise musical terms, with ideas and suggestions for nearly every movement.

After several months of honing the music, I felt it was complete and needed to find an orchestra willing to play it's premier. We're good friends with some of the members of Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra and without too much conjoling, were able to convince them to play the piece. However, getting a conductor would have been cost prohibitive, so... I have taken on the reigns myself. While I have conducted numerous smaller ensembles before, this will be my first appearance infront of a full symphony.

The process is still not done. We are a few months before the concert is a reality, and while it feels very real, I am right now in the process of ensuring all the parts are readable and my wife is working on the publicity and arranging details with the hall. As we get closer I know other elements of putting on a concert will undoubtably pop up and need attention - but for now, I am relishing in the concept - I have written my first symphony.


Rob said…
And the orchestra is looking forward to playing it!
Anonymous said…
I know my input will probably not be welcomed, but I simply couldnt pass this moment by without saying that this is a wonderful oppurtunity, and that you will knock them dead on the night.
Well done, a more worthy tribute I cannot imagine!


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