Q&A: Composer in Residence
Choral Chameleon: Knowing that this is not your first Residency - what excites you, at this point in your career, about working with Choral Chameleon this year as our new Composer In Residence?
Dale Trumbore: I'm absolutely thrilled to be Composer in Residence with Choral Chameleon. I've known about Choral Chameleon for so long. My friend Jeff Parola was the first Composer in Residence for the ensemble, so I'd heard him sing their praises for years. Vince programmed my piece I am Music back in 2014, too; Choral Chameleon was only the second group to perform it, and they gave it a gorgeous East Coast premiere.
I was born in New York City and grew up in Northern New Jersey, and until I moved away to go to college and graduate school, New York was the city I thought of as my own. So even though I live in Los Angeles now, I'm happy to be working closely with Choral Chameleon in the place where I started my journey as a composer, and where I still have lots of friends and family.
It's always an honor to be Composer in Residence for an ensemble. On one hand, it feels validating to know that this group likes your music enough to want to spend a year featuring it. It also grants you a wider timeframe in which to explore what it's like to write music with a specific group of performers in mind.
I'm entering this residency with a solid grasp of Choral Chameleon's strengths. The piece I wrote for them this fall reflects our past collaboration and builds on that. The piece I'll write in the spring, a secular work for chorus and organ, will take into account the specific people who will be bringing it to life.
As a Composer in Residence, you have more time to let your relationship with everyone in an ensemble unfold organically, and that inevitably winds its way into the music you write for them.
How will this appointment help you do things as a composer that you haven’t yet been able to do? What are you hoping to be able to test/try out, with the relative freedom Vince gives to our CIRs?
I'm excited to take advantage of Choral Chameleon's adventurousness. Choral Chameleon is willing to make bold programming choices as well as musical ones, all in the name of creating a compelling narrative.
In Footnotes to a History of Music, the first piece I've written for Choral Chameleon this year, soloists alternate speaking and singing as the chorus shifts between various wordless musical textures. The narrative isn't linear; in Kristina Marie Darling's poem, and the way I've set it, the story is presented as a series of footnotes. It's an experimental text and an experimental piece, and I don't think I would or could have written this exact piece for any other chorus.
This residency feels like a safe space for me to take bold creative risks, and as a composer, that's the mark of a dream collaboration.
What perspective do you hope to bring to students at our 2019 Summer Institute?
I've spent the last decade of my life gradually building a career as a full-time composer. There's so much I wish I'd known when I started down this career path, and I'm eager to share that knowledge with other composers.
Composers need to know how to collaborate with conductors effectively, and conductors need to know how to work with composers. I'm grateful for programs like this one that bring conductors and composers together and help de-mystify this collaborative process.
When I'm working with other composers, I offer solutions and advice for overcoming composing challenges as well as the nitty-gritty business details of making a living in this field. On a daily basis, I'm simultaneously trying to make meaningful art and to support myself with that art, and I've learned so much in the process.
At the 2019 Summer Institute, I hope I'll be a resource for composers and conductors regarding artistic decisions as well as virtually anything related to effective and meaningful composer-conductor collaboration.
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This interview was originally published on the Choral Chameleon blog, September 2018.