Friday, February 22, 2008

A World Beyond Your Own: About the Atlanta Composers Group

At first, I figured it to be just another opportunity to maybe have my music played. Back in July of 2006, my friend and fellow composer Adam Scott Neal told me about a performance opportunity taking submissions for a concert they were putting together. I had just joined SCI, and had already submitted pieces to one or two festivals to be considered (neither were accepted). I was appreciative of the tip, and chose my 1999 composition "In a Lonely Place" to submit for performance. I emailed the track to the organizer, and left it at that, looking forward to hearing back. I hadn't done much to get my music performed live since my days at Georgia State- mainly because for a while I wasn't quite sure a) how to go about it and b) for the first couple of years after college my writing became secondary- few ideas came to mind for works, and my job at the movie theatre was my main focus. In 2006, though, I was on a creative streak that first involved my music, then eventually grew to include film projects and eventually short stories.

Cut to January 2007. I get another email from Adam saying that my piece was going to get performed in February at a concert around town at the Five Spot. I emailed the organizer (Darren Nelsen, who'd posted the submission notice on his own Atlanta Composers Blog) I'd submitted to for confirmation, and indeed it was going to be on the program. Exciting news. I submitted program notes and bio to him, and when a website for the show was built with promo materials like programs and flyers, I made sure to make them available to friends and to get as many people out as possible to the show. In February, the concert- dubbed "Turned On: Electronic Music by Atlanta Composers", and hosted by Adam and Darren- took place, and was reasonably successful, not only in terms of turnout but also in reception, including getting a positive review in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I continued to follow things on the Blog for further feedback on the Five Spot show, as well as possibilities for further shows. Eventually came a notice of Darren hosting a meeting for Atlanta composers to discuss further possibilities of getting our music out there.

From there began the Atlanta Composers Group. Meeting turnout has been relatively small, but generally consistent in who has come out (though as with all things, life intervenes in ways making attendance difficult sometimes). Very early on, it was clear to me that I wanted to be able to bring something more to the table than just my music. I wanted to contribute to the larger goals of this undertaking, which we looked at achieving through ideas ranging from future concerts (such as our recent "Unseen Forces" concert @ Eyedrum) to CDs to podcasts, and other methods of established and new media. Since my main focus in regards to my music up to this point has been its creation and distribution (with pieces on my personal website and CDs available at CDBaby), and my Music Industry days at Georgia State were long behind me, this goal of mine would require some verve and adaptation beyond my fundamentally shy demeanor (to call myself ill-equipped for self-promotion by and large is NOT an friends and colleagues are more than welcome to back me up on this).

So what are the goals of the Atlanta Composers Group? There are times when that doesn't seem like an easy question to answer, but as someone who's been to all of the meetings (even if I've had to leave a couple early...sorry guys), I feel reasonably confident I can answer it. On the Atlanta Composers MySpace page, it says that we are "a loose conglomeration of the many composers residing in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia." That sums up who we are, but not what we're trying to do.

The first goal of the group is one of networking- making composers in the area aware of one another and what we're working on. The meetings are one method of achieving this, the Blog is another (and the original one, actually), and networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook are another method (most of the composers who've been to the meetings have one or the other, if not they're own website). The endgame of this goal is not only the obvious one- stated above- but one that could include collaboration, not only with one another but with artists in different fields such as film and visual art, among others.

The second goal is exposure, not only for our individual works but for the scene in general. To make not only the art music world, both in Atlanta but outside of it, aware of the existence of new music composers, but the larger community in general. To that end, things like the MySpace site and YouTube (with performances from the Eyedrum concert available for your viewing pleasure here) are beneficial. As is media exposure (with the AJC writeup of "Turned On" making people aware of things), the concerts themselves (the more people who come out, the more people who become aware of us, the more people who might be there next time), as well as projects like the CD we gave away at the Eyedrum show. The MySpace page includes pieces from several artists involved in the group, and is rotated on a monthly basis to included new artists.

Of course, this type of group is of benefit to individual artists looking to get their name and their music out there. But one of the things I've found myself most inspired by in Darren's vision for the group- and one of the reasons I've wanted to contribute as much as possible- is that it is very much about the community, not just catering to specific individuals, although of course there will be overlap of individuals featured from concert-to-concert, CD-to-CD, MySpace playlist-to-playlist, and so forth as the process begins to include podcasts and other avenues. It's this sense of community I hope to inspire in my work as a filmmaker as we go from movie-to-movie (more on that later...but first it would help if I, I don't know, FINISHED the first movie :) ).

Case in point- an early idea of having one show performed throughout different parts of the area, getting different audiences out, furthering exposing the scene and the artists to different pockets of the population who otherwise might not be able to drive down to Atlanta to catch a show, but are interested in the type of show it is. This idea not only benefits the scene of Atlanta Composers but the fan base for this type of music by- if needed- bringing it to them instead of just asking them to come to us. We may even get some new members to the fan base, people who might otherwise not even be aware of this type of music, but find themselves engaged in it by simply hearing it ('cause let's face it, if we don't hear it, how do we know whether we'll like it? At least, isn't that how it SHOULD be?).

It seems as though I should have more to say, but for now, I think that just about covers it. I'm very proud to be a part of this group, and look forward to being a part of it in the future, seeing how it expands, hopefully into the vision I know some of us have for it. I may not be on every concert, or CD, or podcast (and I know some people will no doubt be very happy about that... :) ), but the point of this group, from what I gathered, is to make it less about me and more about we. It's a lofty goal (especially in a field where individual ego plays a big role...come on composers, you know it's true), but after the first few months of being a part of the group, I'm optimistic that we'll be able to accomplish it in the end.

For more on the Atlanta Composers Group, visit us @

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle

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