Music Composers Unite!
My name is Jos Wylin; I live in Belgium and my lifetime passion has always been music, for as far as I can remember.
At the age of 10, I was writing small tunes and songs for my friends. At that time I took lessons to become a classical accordion player. That was really hard then, because there were almost no classical teachers. Most of them only practised popular and dance music. Somehow I forced myself a way to find a more fitting classical repertoire. Next to the accordion, I attended music school and studied classical harmony, the flute and the recorder. Later, when I was in college, I took church organ courses, musical analysis and counterpoint. Finally I became a music teacher in high school (general practice). During that time I started and conducted a 24 players youth ensemble for which I wrote all the music.
My interest always went to early music (baroque, classicism and romanticism) and genuine folk music. (I've been the main accordion player for over 40 years in a traditional ensemble. We accompanied many folk dance societies at their performances. For the folk dance organization, I wrote dozens of arrangements.)
During my education period, I also got my degree as a teacher in modern Germanic languages (Dutch, English and German). So my professional career was double: as a music teacher and as a language teacher, both in high school.
In 1985 I founded "De Kleine Compagnie", a chamber orchestra with as principal goal the performance of Flemish 18th century archive music, mostly contradances, minuets, marches, quadrilles... Nearly all the discovered collections only provide a melody line and rarely a figured bass. So I had to write for every dance a period arrangement. We recorded 2 CDs and performed regularly for the Belgian radio and television.
In 2006 the chamber ensemble stopped and that was the right time to spend more effort on orchestral composition. A number of them have been performed by a live orchestra. But as we all know, it's tough to get our music played by a real orchestra. That's why I try to realize a sampled version of all my compositions. That way there is at least something to present to the outside world other than a written score.
I'm glad to have found this wonderful forum and proud to be a member of it!
Sounds like a very comprehensive background. A great mix of different experiences - even the administration if you've managed an ensemble. Few people appreciate just how much work that can be. Also understand the difficulties of securing orchestral performances. We in the UK have given up with the BBC so it's the town or county orchestra for me and they aren't the easiest to approach though I play in the town one. I now compose for the few musicians with whom I've become acquainted over the years - and too, work with sampled renderings as a chance for public presentation of the music may crop up.
I hope, like me, you find the forum useful and inspiring.
In Belgium there is a saying that goes: "It doesn't matter what you know, but who you know!" I guess that shows exactly the problem. If you are part of the 'inner circle' of the cultural (musical) so called standard, you're the man. If you would have to fight your way into that circle, it's a nightmare. The way I've experienced it is in brief "We know us". If you are known in these circles for whatever reason, you're allowed to participate. If not, they won't allow you and even exclude you from participation. That applies evenly for composition contests. They see each other as ruthless competitors and adversaries in a small market, so they think you have to be set apart or at least discouraged to go on.
A small example: our province organizes a biannual composition contest for (chamber) orchestra. For years and years, the same people win the prizes. The explanation is very transparent. The members of the jury in that contest are the participants in another contest and vice versa. They just keep rewarding each other... Idem dito for concerts!
However, we were lucky. Our second CD was warmly welcomed in the national television (VRT), became even the CD of the week. That means daily playtime, comments, interviews, etc. That arises interest of course and at the same time some invitations by radio and television for more live concerts. Although we were a mixed ensemble of amateurs and professionals, we got (in our genre) nice comments. What most people didn't know, was that I wrote all the arrangements for the performances, since the archive pieces we mostly played only showed a melody line and were not ready to be performed. (In the 17th and 18th century, musicians knew how to play the different parts as an improvisation. They of course had some agreements on the style and instrumental roles in the ensemble (melody, doubling, countermelody, rhythmic patterns, harmonies...). It was rather simple, but efficient, since most of that music was meant to dance to. My great examples for that practice were J.-P. Rameau and Mozart.
Thanks for your warm welcome and indeed, I hope to meet many interesting colleagues here.
Welcome Jos! You have had quite a run in music. I listened to a few of your compositions and your experience shows!
Thanks for your comment and for having taken the time to listen.
Actually, I didn't study composition as such, but I had a solid musical education though. During my studies I was lucky to get in touch with a classical composer (Herman Roelstraete), teacher at the Brussels Conservatory and a profound lover of Flemish traditional folk music. I was invited to get some courses in practical harmony and analysis, followed by composition praxis. He was a very severe professor, delving into the smallest details... but sometimes I learnt more in 10 minutes at his house than in half a year in music school! He explained every movement in harmony: if you move thus, the consequence there will be such... If the bass jumps to that, the soprano will do this... If you would want to write music in many voices, take care of your "employees" - choir singers or instrumentalists - so that they all have an interesting part to play/sing... Be sure your themes are powerful enough... And most of all, he brought me in contact with historical archive music for which I'm still very grateful. He died in 1985. It's such a pity that he has never heard any of my present day compositions.
It seems he ( Herman Roelstraete) was a great influence in your life. It is also good that he gave you some direction and an interest to pursue that lasts to this day.
I don't think there are many here who can claim composition as their main concern. In my case I have been a part time musician for years and have been involved in orchestra at a young age playing brass. Then went to piano/keys and now violin .Currently a church music leader. Sometimes Irish session player.It seems I am often in the company of music teachers though. Just this past Saturday I was in the company of no less than three of them. One of them are family retired from careers in teaching. One is still teaching. It feels good when I get a compliment from one of them because I know that they know a lot about performance, bands and music. None of those people have ever composed anything to my knowledge. One still teaches after retirement part time.
Composition is something I just do as a part of who I am. Whether it ever amounts to anything or not is negligible. I have found there is much difference between smaller arrangement and larger orchestra arrangement. There's a lot I don't know for sure. A lot I need to learn. It's a fun process though for me. Lifelong.
Thank you for your advice on themes and music for voice. You do a great job mixing and composing those old songs.
Just one little thought:
Composing is all about will, perseverance, self-criticism and of course some technique and a bit talent (or creativity). But these things go with a lot of jobs, occupations. Some may call it vocation.