John Adams’ blog post today about the ‘Composition Masterclass’ is all too familiar. I’ve sat in countless a masterclass, run by many an educator. The best were when many composers were present, adding their own comments, as well as insightful individuals leading the proceedings, who were thoughtful and considerate in both their praise and criticism of presented works. The worst? A couple of masterclasses I’ve participated in, where the panel (the ‘experts’, apparently qualified to pull compositions to shreds) were very close minded, and slated every work they heard. The other composers there were great, offering both constructive criticism and praise for the works.
This is possibly one of the largest problems facing young composers today. Although, as John rightly says, we should all try and develop our own unique harmonic voice, students often find their ideas and concepts shot down by educators, lecturers, and those running masterclasses.
Although I’ve experienced this in the past, I must say that my experiences at Trinity College of Music have been very open, encouraging and productive. Nevertheless, I am slightly looking forward to the end of my academic study of composition. I think I tend to approach a piece with a different frame of mind when I think it’s for an assessment, whereas I’m relishing the opportunity to create music freely – and for myself. Even when working for others, within a brief, I feel I can be more creative than when working for assessment. At the moment I’m completing my first draft of the final piece to be completed for my July recital – the final composition ‘assessment’ I will be experiencing for a while. After that, I’m looking forward to completing the various compositions I have on my personal ‘to do’ list!
That’s not to say that I disagree with composition being taught, or that I want to end my education here. I’ve always wanted to do a research PhD in a topic combining composition and music psychology. In fact, I submitted proposals to a selection of educational institutions this year – and I’m currently waiting on the response from the last remaining institution (the other two were simply not suitable for my intended research). Fingers crossed..! Although this degree is almost up, I don’t feel ready to abandon academia just yet..!