The 2010-11 Rapido! Experience

Fifth House Ensemble is excited to host the Chicago premiere of John Elmquist's "Junk Shot" in In Transit: #undercoverhero, part one of our 2011-2012 season series!  "Junk Shot" was created as part of Rapido!® A 14-Day Composition Contest. Below is a note from John about his experience with Rapido! and the writing of "Junk Shot."  At the end of this post, you can find more information about Rapido!® A 14-Day Composition Contest. You can catch "Junk Shot" in both performances of In Transit: #undercoverhero -- find the schedule and RSVP here.  And, without further ado, here's John!  

It was a great thrill for me to hear the performances of my Junk Shot - by 5HE last October (it's already been a year?)  and by the Atlanta Chamber Players in January - in the semi-final and final rounds of the Rapido! composition competition. I was extremely flattered to have my work be the one chosen for expansion since I heard the other semi-finalists and finalists as being very strong pieces with equally excellent performances.

Because there is so much that is out of one's control in an enterprise like this, my primary goal in writing this piece in June of 2010 was to have something that I liked and that I felt I would be able to use regardless of what happened with the competition. Because of this it was, again, quite meaningful to have it chosen from among the other fine pieces but I also took it as an affirmation of what I often hear myself saying to my young students which is that it is important to write what they think they want to hear, not what they think someone else wants to hear.

And this is what I tried to continue to do in more than tripling the length of Junk Shot. When I heard the original three movements, there were a few things that I thought I would like to do differently in the writing, so the first task was to make those changes. But the main effort in the expansion of the piece was to attach two 7-minute movements, one to the beginning and one to the end. These new movements lead into and out of the original without breaks. In terms of content, what I have done is to continue building on the two original ideas for the piece: the interactions of E-flat Major and A Major, and images from the Gulf oil spill. And although I have always believed myself to be congenitally averse to programmatic narrative in instrumental music, I seem to have ended up following one here.

Part of the Rapido! award was a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center, a creative residency program in northeast Georgia. It has never occurred to me to go on an artist's retreat and I am so glad I did. Hambidge is a beautiful place and I could not have found the experience more meaningful on a number of different levels. Spending time with the other artists was extremely interesting and I learned a tremendous amount in the time we were together. Most importantly though, this uninterrupted block of time gave me a chance to think deeply about my work in general terms and this piece in particular. This thinking was primarily expressed in the doing of a lot of theory exercises, looking at patterns and symmetries. Compositionally, what happened as a result of the residency was that I found myself discarding an unusually large number of ideas that I really liked but that ultimately didn't contribute to the trajectory I was trying to follow and this was different for me.

This whole thing from beginning to end has been a first-rate experience. Many thanks to Adam and everyone at 5HE, the folks in Atlanta, and everyone else who created this and made it happen. Rapido! 2010 has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my professional life!

Presented by Rapido! Founders Atlanta Chamber Players & The Antinori Foundation with Boston Musica Viva, Fifth House Ensemble, Voices of Change, & Left Coast Chamber Ensemble

Rapido!® A 14-Day Composition Contest was founded by the Atlanta Chamber Players and The Antinori Foundation in 2009 to promote new chamber music compositions. Rapido! begins a third cycle in 2012, presented by the Atlanta Chamber Players and The Antinori Foundation, with partner ensembles Boston Musica Viva, Fifth House Ensemble (Chicago), Voices of Change (Dallas) and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble (San Francisco). The Rapido Contest challenges composers of all ages from 48 US states to submit an original short work in just 14 days: musical form and instrumentation are specified. Regional finalist works compete at regional concerts, followed by a National Finals Concert with the national finalist from each of 5 regions competing. First prize is a $5000 Commission to expand the winning work for premiere performance by all 5 partner ensembles in their home cities the following season.