Microcomission

Microcomission

Hello! And welcome especially to everyone who’s
coming from the Minnesota
Orchestra’s MicroCommission
page. I’m incredibly excited to have this opportunity to write a new work for the Minnesota
Orchestra, and to participate in this unique approach to connecting commissioning with audience engagement. In the spirit of
engagement, I thought my first order of business would be to reveal (above) the entire photo from which the picture on the
Minnesota Orchestra site was taken. As you can see, all my publicity photos feature animals with laser beam eyes – this one just
happens to have eagles.

This page that you’re currently viewing was, for about five years, a repository for my thoughts
and ideas on any variety of topics. As my musical and entrepreneurial activities have expanded in scope, the time left for writing
diminished, and almost exactly one year ago, I stopped updating this page, vowing (ok, that’s a bit strong – “intending”?
“promising”?) to someday get a new website with an easier interface and a clearer format. That website design is now in progress,
and I’ll launch it at some point in early 2011, but it seemed important to put up something current for all the new folks who were
coming to this page out of an interest in the new addition to their orchestral community. I love community! I love
breaking-down-barriers, I don’t believe in sequestering artists away from the rest of society, I want to know my audience and my
fans. There have been times in my life where I nearly stopped writing music – I’ve been a composer since I was 13 years old – but
what’s brought me back each time is the belief that art is the closest model we have for an ideal in human interaction, and that
creating new work for welcoming communities is one of the few means we have of fostering a genuine sense of collective experience.
This project feels like a perfect extension of all those ideals.

I’ll be writing more about the MicroCommission on the Inside the Classics blog, but here’s the quick
summary: over the course of the next year and a half, the orchestra raises my $20,000 fee (this is the first time I’ve ever had a
public fee, which is weird, since it’s also the largest fee I’ve ever received) through a series of mostly-small donations from
the community that will hear the work’s premiere in 2012. It’s similar to the Bang on a Can People’s Commissioning Fund, but it’s A) more
specifically targeted, perhaps because it’s a new program, and B) transplanted to the orchestral realm. Here’s what the wonderful
conductor and Inside the Classics co-director (with violist Sam Bergman), Sarah Hicks, says about the project:

If the idea of a microcommission has you scratching your heads, don’t worry – yes, it’s a word we made up, and no,
it’s not a really, really small commission! Rather, this is an initiative we’re launching to allow anyone and everyone to be a
part of the commissioning process, which has traditionally been in the domain of the major donor.

The microcommission idea
arose from a desire to modify that traditional process (a few large donations) by opening it up to everyone who’s interested in
being a part of a huge creative endeavor (many small donations). The microfunding/microfinancing movement has been around for
years, as have commissioning clubs, and those were certainly part of the inspiration. Then I stumbled upon Kickstarter, and the
wheels started turning; wouldn’t it be amazing to commission a major orchestral work by an exciting young composer, supported by
what is essentially grassroots online fundraising?

For me, music is more meaningful when I have a personal relationship
with it, and our hope is that the hundreds of co-commissioners who support this project will feel a tangible connection to the
work they are helping create. And that very philosophy about the importance of the connection between music and listener was a big
part of the reason that we’re so excited to have Judd on board. Apart from being an up-and-coming composer whose creative output –
inspired by everything from hip hop to Romantic era composers – is instantly compelling, Judd shares the strong belief that it is
part of our responsibility as musicians, composers and conductors not simply to make music, but to influence and guide the
experience that audiences have with that music. It’s what Inside the Classics is all about.

This is so great.
Inside the Classics is’ a really cool program, a series-within-the-series at the Minnesota Orchestra (which is a consistent
innovator and leader in the orchestral world, as well as one of the best ensembles of its kind, anywhere) that takes specific,
large works (this year, it’s Dvorak’s 7th Symphony, The Rite of Spring and Daphnis et Chloé), contextualizes
them in the first half of the program, then performs them in the second. This is so obviously a Good Idea that it’s hardly
necessary to explain why – except to say that it is an Even More Good Idea to do this with a new composition, and then The Best
Idea Ever to not just drop the audience in at concert-time but to engage them in the entire process, bones and all, of making a
new work come to life. So here we are, and I would be applauding Sarah and Sam and everyone else even if I were not the happy
guinea pig composer to be chosen for this experiment, though happy to be the pig, I am.

I’ll get into some of the many
questions surrounding this process as we move forward in the coming months, perhaps on my new website (as alluded to, above), but
certainly over on the Inside the Classics Blog. There will be cross-postings and twitter hashtags and all the things that you
might expect. For now, though, I simply want to express my gratitude, as well as my excitement, and to help the process of
introduction-to-Judd by throwing out this somewhat worn but still functional website as a means of so introducing myself. There’s
lots of music to be heard and links to some of the key things that I do, besides composing lots of music,
but for the sake of efficiency, here’s a summary:

I am the co-director, along with fellow composers William Brittelle and Sarah
Kirkland Snider
, of New Amsterdam Records, a record label and artists’
service organization based in New York City. We put on shows and release albums by artists who are thinking about music not just
in terms of “the classical tradition” but with the wide view, making “music without filters, made by musicians who bring the
breadth of their listening experience and the love they have for many different kinds of music into their own playing, writing,
and producing. It is music without walls, without an agenda, and without a central organizing principle. New Amsterdam strives to
develop as quickly and as broadly as the music itself, opening doors for artists to enter, creating new spaces for them to fill,
and touching the outer edges where musics meet.” (I wrote that part of our mission statement so I feel ok quoting myself from the
NewAm website!)

I am the managing director of NOW Ensemble, a
chamber music quintet with a unique instrumentation (flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass, and piano) that also counts
three composers among its members. We perform only new works by mainly young composers and our spirit is right in line with what I
wrote about New Amsterdam, above. I’m in the process of producing our second album right now, with the fantastic engineer, Jesse
Lewis; it will be out in May.

I am the curator of the Ecstatic
Music Festival
at Merkin Hall in New York, which is (again, I’ll quote my own copy) “a 14-concert festival of
collaborations that explore and showcase musical standouts from the fertile terrain between classical and vernacular traditions.
The Ecstatic Music Festival is a festival both of and about the present musical moment, one in which composers and performers
bring together the best aspects of all their influences, yielding viscerally engaging music of substantial depth and intimacy that
serves emotional, not technical ends.”

I imagine that the kind of thing that interests me is beginning to come into focus,
at this point?

If you’d like to get a further sense of how I think about things, what I’ve done, and what interests me as
a musician and a person in the world, please check out the archives (linked above). A word of warning: I don’t self-censor, I’m a
political person with strong views about the world, and I have no fear of disagreement and love a good argument. You’ll probably
disagree with some of the things I write. That’s ok with me and I hope it’s ok with you! If you’d like to ask about anything, just
send along an e-mail and I will try to answer your question as best I can.

That seems like as good an introduction as I can give at this time. I’ll look forward to moving forward with this project, to
meeting many new people, and to writing my first major orchestral work. Thanks to everyone who supports the Minnesota Orchestra,
not just in this but in all their endeavors, for creating a culture of experimentation where new ideas can take root and –
hopefully – flourish. And thank you for welcoming me into your community.

11/18/10


 

judd@juddgreenstein.com
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