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  • Writer's pictureisaacrsmith

Crunch Time

This is the point in every fall semester where everything gets very stressful. October has always been my least favorite month, and this year, the stress is even worse than usual, due to grad school applications. I have finally narrowed my list down to 8 schools that I will apply to. It's a lot of schools, but I want to give myself every opportunity to get into a decent program, and these things tend to be such a crapshoot that I figure the more schools I apply to, the better my chances are of getting in somewhere. I plan to apply to Rice, Yale, Michigan, Indiana, UC-Berkeley, McGill, Michigan State, and Louisville. Do I think I will get into some of these places? Not a chance. But as mentioned, I feel that so much of this process is complete luck and it is worth applying to places for the small chance that I might get in.

I have been crazy busy writing new music, organizing recording sessions, and working on my CV, resume, and personal statements for each school (not to mention trying to keep up with my coursework). Right now I can count 6 projects that I am working on simultaneously, and I am just trying to survive until December 1, when an enormous weight will be lifted off of my shoulders with grad school apps finished. The current pieces I am writing include a saxophone solo utilizing aleatory and non-linear composition, and a piece for percussion trio that I am writing for an upcoming percussion composition contest for UNI composers. The former has been a long process, mostly from a notational standpoint, in trying to convey what I am wanting from my performer. I think I have spent twice as much time trying to figure out how to notate things on the computer than I have actually writing the piece. The percussion piece is in the planning process currently, and in the next week or so I will treat it as a speed-writing exercise, where I write the entire piece in just 1-2 days. Not only is this a necessity at this point due to the lack of time on my hands, but I think it will be a good experience to write what comes to my mind and not criticize it too much. Sometimes the first idea is the best, and overthinking is a problem I often have when I write.

I am also starting work on my first fixed media piece with Dr. Swilley. He has been helping me through the process of writing something that has no definitive pitch, melody, rhythm, or meter. I don't think this piece will be very good in the end, but it has been a huge learning process for me, and I hope to apply what I have learned to future electronic pieces in hopes of greater success with those.

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