Over the last eight days, I’ve played my own music in three different venues in three cities here in Oklahoma. I played my trombone-with-electronics piece Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the Lord here in Guymon at a concert at my church. Then on Friday, I premiered part of my unaccompanied trombone piece Twenty Views of the Trombone on a faculty recital at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Then, last night, Becky and I went to Norman, Oklahoma so that I could play both pieces as a featured composer at a Salon Concert of the Oklahoma Composers Association. All the performances went well, and they bring me to a topic I’ve, understandably, been thinking about lately, and that is the need for a composer to write music for him- or herself to perform, and to perform it.
A Beethoven or a Gershwin could, of course, at the drop of a hat, find a piano and regale those assembled with any number of their original works; Schubert wrote for himself, and composers like Bach and Haydn had jobs that required them to compose, rehearse and lead their newest pieces in quick succession.
No one can be as passionate a performer of a new piece than its composer, and there’s no better way to show how a new piece should be played. If my ideal is to write with a performer in mind, then writing for myself is the closest relationship I can have with a performer.
From a practical standpoint, playing my own music means that I can “take the show on the road” very easily–in my case, with only my trombone and perhaps a mute or the CD of the accompaniment.
While I avoided writing for the trombone for a while–I didn’t just want to be a trombone composer, and there were other media to explore–it will always be the instrument I understand best. I love to play the trombone, and it will, hopefully, always be my primary instrument, even if I don’t get nearly the amount of practice I would like. It only seems natural that I would combine my compositional and performing personae.
I would urge all composers to consider this avenue–and I intend to keep exploring it myself.