"composer in residence" - how does it work?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jan H, May 7, 2007.

  1. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Some of the top bands have an appointed "composer in residence" (Black dyke even two I think). How does this usually work? Does the band get the prvilege to premier all pieces by the composer if they want? Or should the composer write a number of pieces for the band (e.g. 1 per year)? Is their money involved in this (e.g. the band paying the composer a fixed anual amount), or is this more of a "prestige" thing, where the composer is trying to get more of his pieces sold by linking his name to the band?
  2. Hi Jan,

    I've been lucky enough to have been in a composer in residence (Or Young composer in residence) at an amazing band, so I guess that I can probably speak with some sort of an idea, about these kind of things.

    Firstly, I think that every role of this nature will be different, they can comprise of many of the things you write about. I think a lot will depend on the players and the conductor, how many concerts the band performs every year and to what sort of audience, but in the end of the day, you need the commitment and the attitude of all involved to make it successful.

    As to who it benefits - surely it is everyone. New music (And the arts in general) is needed and required for music to survive, align that with a quick look back in history, which tends to show a link between development in society and development in the arts, then I think that is a a good enough reson alone.

    But look at a slightly smaller picture - the composer who has a chance to hear their works in the band room, the chance to make changes from their own mind, as well as the really valuable imput of the players and conductors - it's how composers develop. For me it has, and still is, been an invaluable opportunity.

    The band - I guess a band with a CiR is in a better position to answer that. But, imagine a band of any standard (And I guess this maybe applies to lower sections more than the top three or four in the championship section) - it must be to their benefit to be in the practice of learning new pieces - surely that would make contest times easier if all involved were practiced at learning new music? I don't think that applies with my situation (Black Dyke are amazing at anything new!) - but surely if you practice doing something, if you do it over and over again, you get good at it?

    I don't know about the "prestige" as it were, but I can tell you that I'm extremely proud to have had the chances I have - and feel very lucky too.

    Hope this helps, Jan.


  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Well, and for the band.

    Being the first to perform a piece (if its SPECIAL) is a great honour, and it can bring in audiences.

    If its a piece that goes down in history and is played a lot, the band is immortalised by that.

    Cant argue with any of what Peter's said though.

  4. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for the response Pete,
    I was asking this question because we have a very talented composer in our own band. we've played several of his pieces already and tried out a couple more during rehearsal. If everything goes well, we'll likely be playing a piece by him at the next Kerkrade contest.
    Here in Belgium, the "composer in residence" concept is not so known, but I was just wondering if we could "formalize" his role in some way. Just an idea that popped in my head yesterday ;)

    ps. the composer I'm talking about is Kevin Houben (not related to myself...), winner of last year's European Composers Contest - If I remember correctly you wrote some not-so-nice things about his piece in the Bandsman ;)
    To be honest though, he has written better pieces than the one that was used for the contest; and on top of that he was very unhappy by the way it was performed during the contest final
    Last edited: May 8, 2007
  5. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think it would be good to formalise his position with the title "Composer in residence". It would help raise his profile outside the band, and also shows that the band itself is willing to promote new music and new writers. For any composer/arranger, the opportunity to try out new pieces and ideas, and then to see them included in concert programmes, is invaluable. Certainly many of the best works from the Salvation Army repertoire have been produced when the composer in question has had a band of their own to work with, such as Bob Redhead with the Canadian Staff Band and later the ISB.

    One thing you may want to consider is whether you want to place any conditions on the arrangement, such as new works being played exclusively by your band for a period.
  6. It sounds like he has a kind of CiR role already - is there a need to make it more of a formula? Best of luck with it!

    I don't usually respond to this kind of thing, but for once, I'll give it a go!

    I am pretty sure I noted that the band didn't give it the reading that it deserved - which is always tough for a composer ("Bad piece", rather than "bad band playing a piece badly" is what you hear from the audience and other listeners).

    Although, that aside, I'm sure that anyone who pays a subscription to any magazine, from any genre, would feel cheated if the writers didn't tell the truth as they see it - they have a responsibility to do that. On this occassion, as I always try to do, I did just that.

    However, it is only one persons perspective on an event, and I have found that you have to take the rough with the smooth - if you are going to enjoy the good comments, you have to realise they are also only one persons thoughts too.

    I did notice you didn't mention that he got a good mention in an artice I wrote in last weeks BB - but hey, maybe the writers also have to take the rough with the smooth!


  7. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Of course, you're entirely entitled to your own opinion. I have no problem with that whatsoever! It was just a coincidence that you replied to this thread, which made me remember about last year's composers contest - so I realised you probably knew who I was talking about.
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Quite a few interesting comments so far but I have one query ... the glossy title of composer/arranger in residence ... is this just another form of an elevated positioning of the link between the writer and a proof-reading band? Proofreading helps try out ideas and well as giving feedback for development and sorting errors. Both parties usually benefit if the music is a little more complex than their usual fayre. If a piece is welcomed by conductor and band it is more likely to be performed than not by them, regardless of being called CinR or AinR. I suppose the difficulty comes when commissions outside the band come along and compromise the relationship.
  9. Not too sure how "glossy" a title can be, but I don't think CiR is at all - to me it represents a creative link between all parties concerned - think I've already tried to explain why above somewhere.

    Generally, I've (And I'm sure this will apply to others too) written pieces for specific concerts and performances, and so to that extent it wasn't a case of proof reading, them liking the piece and therefore playing it. I'm lucky in that the MD and band are the best readers of my compositions there is, and there is trust from all parties, so any comments, thoughts or otherwise are freely exchanged in a positive manner.

    Again, I can only speak personnally, but I have only ever received support from the MD and band regarding external commissions, and would hope that it would be the same for any composer and band/MD.
  10. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I suppose I'm a kind of unnoficial composer/arranger in residence for co-op.

    Generally for me that means "Andi, we need this for a concert in a week..." Or "Andi, we've got another rugby job so we need two more national anthems.." but it does mean if I've an idea for a piece, I can get it blown through to check for balance, and make sure everything's come out as I intended, and that's an invaluable asset to anyone writing music.

    I suppose it's a bit different because I'm actually a member of the band, so I suppose I have a tendency to write for MY band, rather than writing for a band in general. Plus I usually have to play my own bass parts so don't really get to listen to anything I've written as an audience member would!

    But I'd not change my situation if I could. It's brilliant to have a band who;ll blow through almost anything I've written... no matter how loopy!
  11. brass journo

    brass journo Member

    ... and we couldn't do without you and your crackin arrangements!!

    thanks Andi