Reflections on 2020

2020 was a year when not much happened but a lot did. In the music world, things basically shut down. No performances, no commissions. In the “real” world, we had Black Lives Matter protests, a huge and divisive election, and more-than-warranted “debates” about wearing masks and social distancing during a pandemic.

My big personal news was the birth of our child, Charlie, in September. Otherwise, after years of moving around, starting new jobs, hustling for performances, etc. etc., this felt like an odd steady-state year. A year that felt mostly the same, except in the last few months it wasn’t stupidly hot outside.

In addition to prepping for Charlie’s arrival, my big thing this year was professional development. I’m coming up on 2 years at Southern Methodist University, and 1.5 years in my current position. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and am looking at ways to improve my skill set and expand the scope of my position a bit.

First was a virtual artist residency led by Margaret Schedel in July. Originally the participants would have met at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Instead, we had a midday discussion/work group over Zoom. This was a great opportunity to meet some new folks and discuss art and technology and related ideas. I posted about the tape loop experiment I made. I also wrote a short electric guitar piece.

In August, I attended (through SMU) a Digital Humanities Research Institute workshop. Through this I got a good grasp on the methodologies of digital humanities, and started thinking through some research ideas. We saw some basic text mining processes in Python, and I’m looking forward to carving out some time to learn how to do this kind of work.

My job is a staff position, not faculty (as I described in a previous post), but I coordinate undergraduate research programs, so I feel strongly that I need to stay involved in research and creative activity. Early in the summer, I finished a solid draft of a book of essays. It’s with my editor now, and I’m hoping to self-publish this sometime next year. If I was in a tenure-track academic position, this wouldn’t “count” for anything. But since my job is a staff position, I have some freedom to pursue projects that won’t be peer-reviewed or appear in traditional journals and publishers. However, I also published an academic book chapter this year and am starting to write a potential journal article.

On the music performance front, the year was pretty dead. I found on YouTube some students playing Tearmunn. I’m occasionally selling a piece of sheet music. But so far as I know no one is playing anything right now. I wrote a whole 60-minute album/playlist of piano music for yoga classes (read about it), am partially through another yoga album, but I haven’t written any chamber music in 2 years. We’ll see if and when that picks up, but for now, I’m playing with homemade electronics and keyboards again, with an eye to develop material for future solo performances.

Oh yeah, and I started blogging this year! Most popular posts: Performance royalties and the Composer’s CV.

It’s not like everything will magically change this Friday, but I do expect that the new year will bring about a newfound optimism. Let’s make 2021 great.

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