Patrick Clark – Day Eight: The Finish Line

The Finish Line: 9 July, 2012; Day Eight; Duhok, Iraq

I am at the end of the eighth day of teaching composition, theory and music history with the American Voices YES Academy in Duhok, Iraq. I am most proud to report that seven of my ten composition students have crossed the finish line with completed short pieces for anywhere from four to seven players. The proof is on camera and digital audio as several volunteers for the program recorded our first reading and rehearsal session for these pieces.

The generous string faculty allowed no fewer than three compositions to be read in their String Orchestra rehearsal time between yesterday and today. Meeting the challenge of such goodwill, string, wind, and piano students gave two hours (again, after their Orchestra rehearsal) to a very successful reading session after dinner earlier this evening.

The offerings by these seven aspiring composers exceeded even my already high hopes. I work with the students individually every other day to see the progress of the pieces and insure they meet the standards necessary for players to read them without issue. Of course I do my best in offering suggestions for strengthening the material and form. I hear them often through the obtuse Finale computer notation software, and spend time at the keyboard checking the counterpoint.

What surprises me even to this day is how much more vivid and clever the sounds are when made by real instruments! There is some principle—it must be in the science of aesthetics, recorded somewhere—that we humans find some profound thrill in all things alive, and especially those that are new. It has something to do with observing anything younger than oneself, that it always seems to have an edge of the special. That is what new music is and that is what I heard tonight. The players must have also—at least they didn’t complain about two hours of the unfamiliar along with the problem-solving that comes with the package. Okay, I’ll just say it: Here comes the next generation of Iraqi composers.

It is now 11:00 pm here. I must meet with Marc Thayer, Director of String Orchestras, and tell him “Yes, I’ve got a program of new, very new, music by young Iraqi composers! Where can we fit this into the final concert schedule?” After that meeting I had better get to preparing my history and theory lessons for tomorrow—my alarm will wake me at 6:30 a.m. in the morning. Just the usual schedule but with a bit of added satisfaction.