There is nothing quite like the thrill of working on music that is completely new and has never been seen, never mind played or sung, by another performer. If you enjoy working on new music, do consider commissioning a new piece. It may be far less expensive than you imagine it would be. In this guest blog post, Ruth Carlyle describes how she and her husband Nic Carlyle commissioned David Barton to compose the music for a song cycle: ‘By Woodland Ways’.
Inspiration for new music can come from all sorts of sources, perhaps a poem or an experience. ‘By Woodland Ways’ started with a painting by my husband, Nic Carlyle. Taking imaginary walks through the paths of the painting, I was struck first of all by a cluster of three trees beside a track, which made me think about dryads, or wood nymphs. There were also paths moving into and out of woods in the painting.
The images led me to write a set of poems:
- ‘To lose or find yourself’ – with panpipes calling a traveller into the woods
- ‘Circling the light’ – time passing around a fireside
- ‘Dryad’s song’ – a dryad’s call to and release of the traveller
- ‘Wayfarers’ blessing’ – a blessing for all who travel, as the traveller leaves the wood
Nic and I approached David to set the poems to music for voice and piano, starting with ‘Dryad’s song’. We agreed styles for the different songs; for example, the style of ‘Circling the light’ reflects playground songs and American folk music arrangements.
You do not have to write words to be set for a song. You could be asking for an arrangement of a traditional song for a particular instrument, or a piece inspired by photographs of a place. If you are commissioning a setting of an existing poem, you need to check whether it is in copyright – and to get permission to use the words if they are still in copyright. From the perspective of recording music, you need to check both US and UK copyright. US copyright covers works published less than 100 years ago. UK copyright covers works up to 70 years after the death of the author.
Working with David on the commissions was a flexible process, as he shared drafts of the work in progress to check that the work met the expectations that Nic and I had as commissioners. David also worked with me to record the songs and make them available on major music platforms.
I have also worked with Helen Sanderson White on a setting of another of my poems, ‘A Homely Blessing’. Many composers are very happy to be approached for potential commissions. You do not have to be a conductor or a professional musician to commission music. If you like new music, or know someone who would like new music for a special occasion, do consider making a commission.
For further details of commissioning David click here.
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