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Enjoy the Ride of Commissioning Music

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Francesca Tortora | 08:17 UK time, Wednesday, 4 July 2012

In our year of music, we thought it fitting to provide some more information on how to go about commissioning. Ed McKeon, Co-Director of ‘Third Ear’, shares his experience and expertise of music production with the help of a mystery tour, some second hand clothes… and a country pub.

Ed from third ear sat on a wall outside


"In the north-west town where I grew up there was a small travel agent that used to advertise ‘mystery tours’ by coach. People would book without knowing the destination, ready to enjoy the ride, the company, and the surprise. Of course, the travel agent knew his market, and the tour was sure to end somewhere they would enjoy. The tours worked because they were built on trust; this is what good commissioning is like.

Why Commission?

There are many reasons why the journey is worth the effort:

·          Your group may benefit from the adventure, a departure from the still waters of regular habits and routine. If you never leave home, all you know of the world may be what you hear on the radio, see on TV, or hear told by others who have ventured out.

·          A commission builds a special sense of anticipation, with the premiere as an opportunity to show off your group to its best: a new work should play to your strengths, and unlike standard repertoire there is no benchmark performance for it other than the one you give. Local media – as well as your audiences – can pick up on the buzz and excitement.

·          If you have an unusual line-up, you may find playing a piece tailored for you – rather than an arrangement of something else – much more satisfying. There’s a limit to how good you can look in second-hand clothes.

·          Working with a composer opens up windows into their creative process that can give fresh insights into your regular repertoire. What’s more, you can be part of that creative process. You may not drive the bus, but you could help decorate it, and you might specify a stop off at a country pub with a good view.

As with any adventure, this is a journey you have to want to take. There’s no point asking to get off half way through. Above all, you have to build trust with the composer: as with a road trip, there’s nothing worse than backseat drivers and multiple map-readers!"

Part 2 of Ed’s three-part blog series on commissioning music will be focusing on the key principles and practicalities of the process, so watch this space!



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