Share with us your dream commission.  What instruments would you like to write for?  Where would the commission be heard? When would the piece be performed?


We have been so impressed with the range of work that composers are sharing in this group.  We have people who are working in orchestral music, chamber music, film scores, video game music.  People are writing in so many styles including bluegrass, romantic, traditional folk, modernist and more.  What a terrifically diverse and interesting range of work!

One of the things we are aware of is that, as composers, we are writing with a very specific goal in mind, whether it is to score a scene in a movie, or to write for a specific chamber ensemble from our school. This got us thinking about the idea of the commission and how much it matters WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW you are writing for.

When we talk about a commission we are usually talking about a set of decisions about where to start a composition. Sometimes decisions have been made by a performing ensemble that is playing your piece, or maybe by a movie director who wants a very specific sound to accompany a scene in his film.  But in general, the major characteristics of a commission are WHO is going to be playing, WHAT instruments they will be playing, WHERE the piece will be performed (in a film or on a concert stage), WHEN the performance will be, and if there is a reason WHY the piece needs to convey a certain feeling or energy.

As an example, here is a great video featuring one of our Musical Exchange colleagues, Anthony Constantino, and his piece commissioned by Carnegie Hall for orchestra and chorus:

Here is another example of a commission as described by composer Christopher Rouse:

With these two examples in mind, think about what your dream commission would be.  And share your dream commission with the Musical Exchange composing group. 

You might even find that there is a way to actually make your dream commission a reality!!

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Replies to This Discussion

I love writing andante- moderato lyrical music opposed to faster tempos, so my dream commission would be to depict an emotion from a gentle, thought-provoking, painting or story. Music is a form of art, and I often find that art will describe something that cannot be described with words. To take a visual art and make it a musical art is like translating one language into another. On the other hand, I am always fascinated by music that tells a story, such as Scheherazade or Symphonie Fantastique, and would like the opportunity to try it out for myself.

I prefer instrumentation with a prominent cello line. I would want a top notch orchestra to perform it; I always dream of the London Symphony or New York Phil, but I wouldn't mind if it were another orchestra, as long as they can put emotion into it. I would want to write for strings and select winds and percussion. My preference would be to play on a concert stage. If I'm allowed to dream really big, then I would write a cello solo if Yo Yo Ma would play it. 

Caitlin,  I love your idea about taking a piece of visual art and making it into music.  And I am intrigued by your idea of making a piece that tells a story.  These are both great commission ideas.  I wonder if anyone else shares your enthusiasm for these approaches?

I was "Commissioned" to compose a few pieces this past year by my school. (by commissioned, I mean asked to quite nicely) we were putting on our school play, The Odyssey, and the director felt that music would fit very nicely. so what she did, is for each scene that she wanted music for, she wrote down the length of the scene, and a feeling she wanted to portray. the rest was completely up to you! I had a blast, and ended up composing quite a few different pieces for everything from a loving reunion to a cyclops battle!

My dream commission would have to be somebody coming to me  (possibly with a cheque this time ;) ) and giving me a feeling, and then telling me to run wild! I specialize so far in wind ensembles, as that is what I've spent the most time apart of. so preferably, the commissioned piece would be for wind ensemble! again, if I can dream big, it would be great to have it performed by professionals on a professional stage, and if I could dream REALLY big, I would love to have the chance to conduct it on that stage!

Justin, This sounds amazing.  I can't believe you have already been commissioned to write for the theater!  I wonder what you mean by somebody giving you a 'feeling'?  Do you mean like determined or terrified?  or something else?  Let us know!!

yeah, exactly! feelings like "triumphant" or "terrified" ect. For one of the pieces, all I was given was a two minute time estimate, and the word "Heartwarming." though it scared me a little, the idea of being able to miss the mark by so much, it totally came together in the end!


Well, it would be to create small pieces for each section of the orchestra. Those small pieces could follow -or not- a story to end with a full orchestra playing together.

I have not pictured which energy/color/mood it would have...but I think that would depend on a lot of things, such as: which type of instrumentwould play and a story.


Thanks for posting this here, Pamela. I would be really excited to hear this piece!

I'm inspired by the Olympics. I'd love to be commissioned to compose a chorus piece for the opening ceremonies in an American host city. Huge audience and impact there! It would be a compilation of American music, from the Native-American circle song to the Appalachian folk tune to the Anglican hymn and the African-American spiritual. I suppose it could include a taste of a blues, jazz, movie magic and contemporary minimalism, but I think the former genres would be plenty. 

This sounds amazing. I like the way that this Dream commission connects the idea of writing for an specific emotional response and for an image.

I'd love to write for Rock Bands, Piano or String Quartets. if I get experienced enough though, I'd love to write pieces for Orchestra.
I really liked the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras but as for movements like the Impressionist movement or the Minamalist movement, I liked certain pieces. it just depends on how I end up visualizing during listening to the piece of music, I don't think I have much to add to what Caitlin said though.

Mohamed I am interested in what you mean by 'vizualizing during listening'? Do you mean what kind of images the piece creates in your mind? Sounds really exciting!

well it's not specifically an image, it could be a story, or a painting or an image of a place. it's a lot easier to have a flight off ideas while listening to a piece of music.



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