Info

News archive

Q&A: How to commission new compositions

Nov 30

Yet another question: how can we get composers to write a quartet piece for us? How to start collaboration with institutions to get money? Other ways of getting money for such projects?

God question yet again!

Getting composers to write for us is an important of the saxophone practice. We play a relatively new instrument, and most of us feel we have to contribute to the development of composed music in general. I do as well.

The most effective way for us to commission new pieces was just asking your fellow students at the conservatory to write for you. These students are the famous composers of the future and if you look around well enough you will find interesting composers before anyone else does. This is perhaps the most interesting way to commission new pieces. At school composers need experience to write for existing ensembles and the ensembles, especially ensembles like saxophone quartets, need new pieces. Well actually, by now of course there is plenty of repertoire for us to last a life time. But I think it will always be a part playing the saxophone that we are interested in new music and want to mean something in the development of composed music.

Also, after the conservatory this is still a way to get composers to write for you. A lot of times the compensation we offer is a number of guaranteed performances and maybe a CD recording.

With the more famous composers this might become more difficult. You could try the Rascher approach: Get a meeting with a composer and play for him/her. If you play well enough, the composer will offer to write a piece for you. If the composer asks you if he/she can write a piece for you then the situation is different of course. In that case, depending on the situation, you might be able to ask a favor from the composer: if you learn to play his/her piece, can the composer arrange a concert for you where you play this? Then in return, you could offer to play it at an X number of concerts as well.

Then there is the money way of course! In Holland we have one important fund that gives most commissions. They were cut heavily last year, so we can rely on them less the coming time. We did commission a piece by Michael Torke with the help of a befriended saxophone quartet, the New Century Saxophone Quartet. We each chipped in half of the money. We had to do this, because the Dutch fund will not commission by non-Dutch composers.
There are some ways to get this money together. In the beginning, when we received money from playing concerts, we used to deduct the costs first and then divide by 5. Four parts for each of the players and the rest goes to the quartet. This was a very effective way to finance our projects, like commissions and CD recordings.
Now we are experimenting with cultural entrepreneurship. I cannot say much about this yet, because we just started...