I’ve now got 3 years left…

Originally posted May 3, 2013. Reposted here due to a mid-term update (see below).

Some of my compositions were recently submitted as materials for another Masters-level qualification which would permit me to teach higher education in the USA – something my experience and approach is well suited to. The application was not approved, and that hurt. When I shared the assessor’s report with my select circle, most of the reactions were along the lines of “These comments make no sense,” and “I haven’t got a clue what he’s on about.” One comment suggested how the assessor seemed to be looking for negative things to say and ended up saying the same thing about each piece that was submitted. There is no recourse to appeal the assessment, and therefore I particularly reveled in one friend’s description of the assessor as a “Schmuck” (all in good jest to lighten the weight I’d put on his career-jolting opinion.)

A colleague in the academic world seemed to corroborate but put it like this:

You have wonderful ideas and a sense of exploration. Maybe there is a voice in your head wondering if anyone will like what you are doing so you play it safe. As with any creative venture, safety does not result in efforts that fully show one’s capability. I also think you have been limited by [composing for] players with modest ability and so you have had to avoid writing anything that pushes the envelope too far. Break out of that. Quiet the voices of questioning that I can imagine are speaking to you and see what happens.

Wow! Nice! Thank you, G!

 

My action plan must be:

  • Something that doesn’t require seeking the participation of musicians I can’t afford or are of “modest ability.”
  • A project that doesn’t require coming to you with my hand out asking for funds.
  • Something with changing flavours, aromas and colors that last over a long period of time.
  • A project which produces results but is not dependent on what happens to them.
  • Something that can be created with the resources I already have, and that can be shared with you if you’re interested.

 

Major influences:

Heard of Chris Guillebeau? Several years ago he set himself the goal of visiting all the countries of the world by his 35th birthday. He just completed his quest ON his 35th birthday last month. 193 countries in less than 11 years. No-one else has ever accomplished it.

Most of Bach’s work, much of Mozart’s, Beethoven, Verdi, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Taverner, Part and a multitude of other composers have written music influenced by the Bible, including two of the most amazing pieces ever: the ultra-famous Messiah by Handel, and the incomparable Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton (watch below). Even outlying members of the post-WWII British atheist movement, including composers such as Benjamin Britten and John Rutter, often turned to the Bible for source material. So why not me?

 

I recently heard a reading of Psalm 33 and it caught my attention. It is far from famous but its descriptive content is unique. There are many pieces of music in the world influenced by the psalms, but… all of them? Yes. Plenty. But that’s like asking if every country in the world has been visited. Until Chris G set his goal, no one person had visited every country in the world.

My Quest:

To advance my composition skills by writing 150 pieces of music based on each of the 150 psalms by my 50th birthday in 7 years’ time.

How on earth will that get done? I have a plan. [In fact, I’ve already started].

It’s going to be a fascinating journey! I hope you’ll stay the course with me.

 

 

Keep Calm and Stay The CourseUpdate Jan 8, 2014:
Project going VERY well! 13 completed and two more underway. In the meantime, I’ve adopted the hashtag #PsalmQuest to help organize my composition project. Spread the word! [Click it to tweet it]

Update Nov 24, 2014:
Due to my cloud server (including backups) being wiped clean by IXWebHosting in error, my first year update post no longer exists 🙁 But it was a good celebration. I’ve now completed 33 compositions but am spending most of my time rebuilding my websites at the moment.

Update Dec 30, 2015:
I am 1/3 of the way through this project. Woah! The year started out well and some interesting pieces I really look forward to hearing came into being. The end of the year was a bit of a struggle, though, with some family and personal health issues, so although 52 compositions have been completed, I am 4.5% behind schedule. Here’s to goal setting and catching up! Possibly even getting ahead 🙂

Update Nov 30, 2017:
My dad got sick. Real sick. Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). It’s a very cruel disease there is currently no known cause or cure for. I’ve spent the better part of the last two+ years traveling back and forth between the USA and the UK caring for my parents and my own family simultaneously. Creative output has been somewhat limited in that time. So, as 2018 approaches and Dad no longer needs us to look after him, I need to adjust a few things in my composition schedule and maybe even move my target date a little: December 31, 2020 (as opposed to my 50th birthday on May 27th).

 

Tell me in the comments below how you’ve overcome adversity or a big disappointment. Did it spur you into action? Did you setup a project or quest? Did you move onto something completely different? I’d love to hear how you managed to move on with your life. Go on, add a comment, and then share this post so others can benefit, too:

Stephen P Brown's PsalmQuest Premium

#PsalmQuest 50 research

Psalm 72-7 by David Hayward

“Psalm 72-7” by David Hayward

The next psalm in my quest is number 72.

At this stage in my #PsalmQuest it is time to focus on specific instrumentation needs and techniques. As my final work (Psalm 33 – click here to read why) will include a chorus and possibly some solo singers, I need to experience writing for alto voice.

Click here to read Psalm 72

Melani Pyke (artist) titles her visual representation of psalm 72 “He Will Rule” and includes an Aslan-like depiction

Read Frank McEleny‘s poem based on psalm 72. It might become the text of our next #PsalmQuest piece.

R.E.O White titles his narrative on this psalm “Thy Kingdom Come!”

Longman and Garland call their commentary “The Glory of the Davidic Kingdom” and structure it in a rather unhelpful but not uncommon ABCBCA form:

  • A – Prayer for Davidic Kingship
  • B – Hope for Righteousness and Justice
  • C – Prayer for Longevity and Universal Rule
  • B – Hope for Righteousness and Justice
  • C – Prayer for Longevity and Universality
  • A – Praise of God’s Kingship

The next step is to plan the composition itself.
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No more updates?

Hello.

Just a quick note to say there will be no more daily #PsalmQuest progress updates.

I am spending a great deal of time away from composing in order to write and prepare them and am falling behind schedule as a result.

Over the next couple of weeks the premium plan will transition to a free plan and you will be notified when each new #PsalmQuest composition is available.

Thanks for your support and encouragement so far – almost 1/3 of the way through!

Best wishes,

Stephen