Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Creative in Residence

In March I begin a three-week residency as Denver Art Museum’s first Creative in Residence. I’m nervous and excited about the experience. I don’t know exactly what to expect; I have participated in just one other residency before, in Catskill, New York, but the setting was quite different and very pastoral. I have also traveled abroad as a Fulbright Fellow to Iceland, but that experience immersed me in a new culture and landscape, rather than a setting much closer to home.
             I have brainstormed so many project ideas in advance, and I am looking forward to realizing a handful of them, knowing that they will change and evolve along the way. I may even find that being in the galleries for an extended stay may conjure entirely new ideas. Having a budget helps me set goals for the projects. I am slowly whittling down a list of materials I might need and people I will want to invite in to assist.
            I have worked with the public on music-related projects before, but rarely have they been pieces that can live on in some way when I am not present. I am also curious to see how I can create work while in the galleries, interacting with visitors while I prepare for works or involve visitors in process of creating. Music composition is often a solitary act, so I wonder what kinds of pieces might be intriguing for visitors even if they are only half-completed…or even if I am able to concentrate amidst commotion!
            My personal goals for this residency are ones from which normally cause me a little anxiety. I would like to become more comfortable with sharing my work in an unfinished state, allowing my process to be more apparent. I would like to take more risks in my work, knowing that I might make big mistakes in front of people, embarrass myself, or perhaps make guests uncomfortable in stumbling into a piece in progress. But as history has shown, my favorite (and usually most personally ‘successful’) projects have been the ones that I have been the most uncertain about, or pieces that I felt vulnerable, having shared something quite personal.

            Professional goals are also important for me to set. I feel honored to be able to realize ideas that have gone previously rejected by other institutions, and I want to use my time and resources to their best benefit. I am striving to get great visual documentation of my work—I have a feeling that this residency could be a huge boost for showing future supporters some of the harder-to-categorize works I make! Finally, I would like to use this residency to explore more of the potential of music and musical instruments within physical spaces. My creative experience has been primarily in recital halls and in recordings, so I want to challenge myself to think more three-dimensionally. Through sound, I want to capture the spirit of the works in the collection and bringing that spirit out into physical space.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Limited Posts, Abundant Life

This blog has been under-updated for some time now but as technology changes, so does my work!

I've been writing more music articles and reviews for Iceland's English-language newspaper The Grapevine. There was recently a full feature article that I'm quite proud of published, on the Sonic Landscape of Iceland. http://grapevine.is/travel/traveling-on-your-own/2014/10/10/icelands-sonic-landscape/ My face is right there real' big, as I lean in on an iceberg.

You can see my other articles here should you like to read them; it's been wonderfully surprising to be able to use my musical skills for something I love doing- listening to music and talking about it, and listening to Icelandic music just takes the cake.

I'm keeping the blog live for now, and it has some great history in the backlog. But feel free to check out my main website and my Facebook if you'd like up to date projects. I've got some exciting ones in the pipeline, like a piece of Psalm 119 in the original Hebrew--a group composer collaboration. A set of 24 Preludes with the fabulous pianist Rose Lachman, debuting summer 2015; and my first art show, June 2015 in Denver, collaborating with local, national, and international artists.

And speaking of technology, I even have an Instagram account now as well. Life has been full of new things lately and I'm trying them all out. http://instagram.com/thisisnathanhall will get me, sure as the crow flies.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Alternatives to I Can't Believe It's Not Butter

May or May Not Be Butter
I Actually Can Believe It's Butter
Could Be Butter
Survey Says: Butter
I Do Believe It's Butter
Ceci N'est Pas Butter
It's Butter, Y'all
 I'd Rather Have Jesus...I Mean Butter
Whether 'Tis Nobler To Be Butter
I Can't Not Believe It's Not Not Butter
I Know It's Buttery Spread
Probably Margarine


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rejections, and No Response is the new No

Musicians and artists, especially composers, are used to the fact that a part of our lives, often a big part, is devoted to applying to Stuff and getting mainly Rejections. We apply to fellowships, residencies, competitions, grants, travel opportunities, performance opportunities...and of course, employment opportunities.

Since January 2014, I've sent in 23 applications for things (teaching opportunities, performances, residencies, etc), and a ten were 'no responses', which outweighs the official 'nos', at 8. I've also gotten one 'no' but with a caveat: I was in the top 14% of 166 applicants, which was kind of nice to hear (a "soft no" if you will). The good news: I got the one 'yes' to a competition (for a choral work), and three performance opportunities in other cities for works I've sent over email (i.e. from lengthy 'cold emailing').

My beef is that lately it seems like getting no response at all is the contemporary form of rejection. Certainly it leaves the artist wondering if their application even really reached its recipient. Isn't it a fairly easy thing to make a form rejection letter and copy/paste names and emails into it? At the very least you could tell applicants that the process has concluded, and sorry 'bout all your time but better luck next time blah blah blah.

Sometimes the 'no response' seems bureacratically motivated: I applied to a position at a university that seemed too perfect: they wanted a teacher for both Aural Skills and Music Technology, both of which I've taught before. But no response, not even a real 'no'; perhaps the institution had to put out a call for legality's sake, only to hire from within.

Sometimes, you do hear the results, and you're a bit humbled. I applied for the McKnight Foundation Visiting Composers Fellowship this year, and didn't get it, but one of the two winners was Pamela Z, an amazingly talented composer and performer who I met last year and she blew me away. I'd like to think our applications were in good company together.

One way to a "yes" that I have found works better for me is simply by making good friends and colleagues, which leads to commissions down the road. I've had amazing experiences so far this way. These performers and ensembles have taken a moment of their busy time to look at my work and decide they want to know more about it. And a player who cares about a piece I wrote for them is a million times more gratifying than winning a begrudged performance and a tiny slice of rehearsal time.

Thankfully getting a lot of rejections, or even non-responses, doesn't make me want to change my work or make me disappointed about it. I'll keep applying to opportunities that I think I would be great for in hopes that other people will recognize that too. One day the "yes" will outnumber the "no", and politeness will rule the day. So I hope.



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Current.org Press

In prep for the upcoming performances of "I Am in Love with the World", I received a great story in The Current, a non-profit news publication which feeds stories to NPR and CBS and the like. It's probably the longest article I've ever had written about my music, and the writer of the story interviewed me, Keith Hampton (who arranged and edited the text), the conductor of the Baltimore ensemble premiering the work, and best of all, Terry Gross of 'Fresh Air', one of my favorite NPR radio shows. Ms. Gross was "very moved" on hearing I'd written the work inspired by Maurice Sendak's interview with her in 2011, and I couldn't be happier to have some more people read about my music and my work!

The full story is here.