CoreScore An AVP Case Study

Day 42 Week 6 Q1  Saturday, February 11, 2023

The AVP, actionable vantage point Situation. Two of the top ten symphony orchestras in the world have summer homes. Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony (BSO) has been in residence since 1938, is twenty minutes from where I live. Tanglewood dramatically impacts and even dominates the local community culturally and economically.  Ravinia, The other venerable summer music extravaganza near Chicago, has had the Chicago Symphony Orchestra CSO in residence since 1936. The New York Philharmonic, the oldest orchestra in the United States, is eyeing a summer home a half hour west of where I live.

What does this have to do with me other than superficially as an audience member? Not much until a month ago, when one of my Juilliard professors reached out to me to let me know there was a final call for an international composer’s competition called Bridges to bridge classical music and jazz by inviting pieces written for a string quarter to play along with a jazz piano trio. The due date for submissions was in three weeks.

Having been performing jazz for many years and recently studying classical music, he thought this was right up my alley. I have struggled with reconciling major differences in how to approach these two art music forms as their practitioners tend not to have similar priorities. One group lives to perfectly render through-composed scores as performances, and the other group lives to present moment improvise. In other words, one regards the score as the definition of the piece, and the other regards the score when it is even present as a point of departure. 

Most classical musicians expect great specificity in how a composer communicates, and most jazz musicians expect great degrees of freedom in what is expected from them. In fact, if they do not have any ability to improvise by departing from the source piece, it is not jazz but something else. I myself live much more in the improvisation camp.

The challenge of how to write a ten-minute piece that is both traditional chamber music and also permits improvisation, but does not demand it,  was a welcome one for me because it required a new actionable perspective. I had to write a core that would not expect the classical people to be able to improvise nor prevent the jazz people from doing so.

I needed to look down at these two groups to see what they each needed and invent a new kind of compositional underpinning, I am calling a CoreScore. The CoreScore has to contain genre-transcending information from which new pieces can be constructed because the performances can significantly differ from each other.

The solution was to add to a conventional classical score two additional staves, located at the top and bottom, containing the additional information, namely tonal centers and rhythmic accents, to enable improvisation.  I used these two new staves as scaffolding to construct my piece, which I submitted seven minutes before the midnight January 31st deadline.

Clearly, this was an actionable vantage point!