Finishing the Rose is Finished!


Thanks first to the commissioning consortium without whom this project wouldn’t have happened, and you wouldn’t have a chance to hear the piece performed so many times in the next year:

Ian Richter
Hanna Van Rooijen
Zachary Herchen
Elisabeth Halliday
Ben Learish
Sean Meyers
Tyrone Page
Ana Kupstas

Thanks especially to Ian for being the driving force behind this entire project. If you’re anywhere near the Netherlands, come see the premiere later this month. It’s about Machaut writing this Rondeau in 1350. You get to see him starting the piece, making a little progress, then falling asleep at the desk, and having PTSD nightmares about surviving the black death. Then you get to see him try to do his day job as a priest and deliver his Messe de Notre Dame while not being able to focus on his work because he’d rather be writing. Then (spoiler alert) you get to see him finish the piece.

I used Trello to organize my notes and drafts for Finishing the Rose, and shared the board with the consortium. This helped keep me honest and thorough, and it helped me keep the commissioners involved in the process, and share sections of the piece as they evolved. It didn’t work quite how I expected, but it worked wonderfully, and I’m absolutely doing it again.

Collaborative project management tools are advancing really fast, and I think they have a lot to offer this kind of creative work. Last summer, in thinking about what kind of art I make, I realized something that will be obvious to people who’ve known me for a long time: I care about shipping process as much as I do product.

So I’ll be continuing to think and write about how this style of composing and collaborating worked, and if you’re trying anything like this, please let me know. I’d love to hear about your work!

Hear are a few things I’ve learned through this process:

  • Taking a photo of a pencil sketch and uploading it as a commit is an awesome way to not lose your sketches.
  • The gap between the default page layout of my working files and drafts laid out well enough for me to send to performers is annoyingly large. I re-did a lot of layout work over the course of the piece.
  • It’s hard to collaboratively annotate a score file of any kind.
  • It turns out that I can do a huge amount of composing away from any instrument and it works.

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