Thanks to Andrew Ward at www.myliszt.com, both for putting together a very useful web resource for musicians and also for inviting me to be interviewed about my music.
In this video, Tan Dun is working with the Youtube Symphony Orchestra. Note the differences in tone and comments that Tan Dun gives here as compared to when he is on the podium with the LSO.
Tan Dun here shows you one way of working with an ensemble, in this case, the London Symphony Orchestra. Instead of launching right into the opening downbeat, he introduces the motives and some of the key sounds of the piece to the orchestra first. He has a particular way of speaking to the orchestra that is certainly part of his success.
When I was a starting out as a composer, I had no idea how to approach or direct an ensemble. Composing the music was a challenge enough in of itself, but at least there is no shortage of recordings and scores from which to learn and become inspired in writing. On the other hand, once you have your piece written most young composers go into those rehearsals without much guidance or experience. It takes a long time to learn what you can and should expect from an ensemble, how you should conduct yourself so you can get what you want out of the rehearsal, and how to prepare. I am starting this blog because I think it would be a helpful resource, especially for young composers, to have a website with lots of examples of composers conducting their own works. For anyone who discovers this blog, I welcome submissions on anything that might give a young composer advice or ideas about what to do in a rehearsal. Just hit the submit button to submit! I know I would have been excited to discover this site as a student and I hope it becomes something useful for young composers, whose job is tough enough as it is.
Here is a second student working on the “Send in the Clowns” from the same Guildhall master class. The chance to see Stephen Sondheim work with a different student on the same piece is interesting, because you get a chance to see how much his comments are tailored to the individual singer and how much they are tailored to his own music.