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  Funding for composers  mattratcliffe81 at 12:43 on 10 September 2008

I am a young composer (26), have a BA in composition from Dartington College of Arts, Devon. I have a question - does anyone know of any funding available to composers who are starting out on their careers? Are there any individual patrons who specifically fund emerging composers? How does one reconcile one's vision of living solely by composition with the fact that one needs money NOW?!!

I would be grateful for any tips.

Matthew Ratcliffe.

  Re: Funding for composers  MartinY at 15:52 on 15 September 2008

Dear Matthew,
I am afraid you will have to do what you will probably have not been equipped to do by a college course and become a ‘portfolio musician’. This is the now accepted name for someone who does several out of composition, teaching, performing, arranging, publishing, conducting, editing and hack work if necessary. You will also need to be a bit of an administrator, your own literary executor and be able to fill in an income tax form. Many of the great composers of the past, for example Palestrina and Lassus did all these things, perhaps with the exception of filing their income tax!
Teaching, performing and editing are all good things for a composer to be doing to keep in touch with the real world of music. Of course once in a while a young composer gets a commission to produce a piece which is a rave success and they go on to get a publishing contract and other people do the support work. Do not bank on this happening and such successful composers are not immune from getting into a slow decline of a sequence of first and last performances of works leading to a drying up of commissions.
That is my advice. Do lots of musical things and make them interact with your composition in the most positive way possible.

Good Luck ...... Martin Grayson.

  Re: Funding for composers  scott_good at 17:24 on 15 September 2008

martin, matthew

very good points, martin. i think it is essential for a composer to be a performer. i do not understand how it has gotten to be that these fields have become so separate. i only know of john cage speaking on behalf of the separation - are there others?

performance is, by it's nature, a study of music - therefor, while performing, one is learning. composition is a manifestation of knowledge and experience - thus, when performing, you are becoming a better composer.

and yes, one has to be a member of society, so, a business sense is important. although i hope to become so famous that i just pay people to do all that stuff (ha ha ha).


  Re: Funding for composers  piargno at 01:57 on 17 September 2008

John Cage performed. Look up his YouTube videos!

I don't know how it is in Dartington, but if I were you, and you're out of school and you want to be a "composer," then start composing SO MUCH now. Research every international composition competition, submit to EVERYTHING! Advertise yourself as a composition teacher and start teaching the basics to private students. Write letters to different organizations, performers, and have your stuff played and heard. Apply to as many festivals as you can! You probably know all of these things by now, so - good luck!

  Re: Funding for composers  scott_good at 02:26 on 17 September 2008


i know that he performed - he's a busy little bee up on stage for sure. but, the quote i was referring goes something like: "I don't see the relationship between performing and composing" which was some kind of reaction to being criticized of composing impossible music, saying this wasn't his concern, because he wasn't a performer. (i don't know where my cage books are - just moved - so am unable to cite properly)

he is the only composer i know of who makes such a strong distinction between composing and performing. one of few of his philosophies i have contention with. but, he had to do what he had to do.

i agree that composing lots is a good way to become a professional composer. i find it kinda laughable to read that some "composers" think it is better to think about composing to become a better composer rather than actually doing it. that is just weird.

but the submit to everything...i'm not all that convinced of this attitude. personally i would suggest concentrating one's efforts towards attainable goals as steps towards a professional career. this will save time, money, and face. getting music performed well is very important. creating a broad portfolio is very important. experimentation to find a unique voice is very important. but making strong personal/professional connections is most important. winning little prizes, and having performances in distant places might help build a resume, but when it comes down to earning a living, the people who chose composers to write for them are going to choose people they know 9 times out of 10. so, true sustainability comes more solidly from a local network of musicians who respect and enjoy playing your work - and enjoy being around you.

maybe the kronos quartet will play your music...but don't bank on it.

  Re: Funding for composers  piargno at 05:14 on 23 September 2008

These points are all well and good, but when one is attempting to establish connections and the background/experience is very limited, then who is going to take this person seriously? Any portfolio builder - festivals, winning competitions (even small ones), private students - will not only give a new composer material to which future collaborators can relate, but also provide an added experience for the composer outside of just simple schooling, not really leading to a terminal degree.

I guess another good idea is to start an ensemble. Even if you're not a performer, you can get friends together and start an ensemble, figure out their strengths, write pieces specifically for them, get good recordings, put on concerts, start a series, etc ... and this is a mega-experience/resume-builder. Probably one that will definitely land some tight collaborations/networking. Then again, I don't know how it is in Canada or Dartington... I'm just in lil' ole Boulder.