Skip to main content

The Struggle, The Opera, The Composer

As a composer I always find it interesting that often I hear the lament that classical music is dead, that opera is dying, that Western music as a whole has fallen into disarray and disrepair. Yet, the reality is that while large musical organizations have suffered during the global economic collapse, millions of classical musicians have risen from the ashes to create new works with very little in the way of support. 

Crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, twitter, technology, coding, animation, video, viral video, tweet, blog, facebook, social media, digital, virtual, second life, CGI, 3D, avatar, machinima....these are all wonderful 21st century terms that a composer like Mozart or Mahler never conceived of yet these terms are integral to the future of classical music. 

Maybe I am someone that thrives "outside of the box". I admit I secretly wish that I could stay in the box and maybe make a living writing string quartets and piano solos. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen to play flute instead of struggle as a female percussionist, or if I decided that being an elementary music educator made more sense than following my dreams in experimental music and media. I think sometimes I wonder at my musical existance, which for me seems more real in cyberspace than in reality where my day-to-day life revolves somewhere around teaching my daughter how to read and figuring out how to stretch this week's food budget one day further. 

So working outside the box and in cyberspace I found that, no, opera is not a dead art if we musicians used the new tools available to us. Our family was moving, so I chose my opera cast through virtual auditions and had them record their parts individually. I received 1000 takes from my cast and listened to each one, mixing them down for mastering by film composer Patrick Rundbladh. I couldn't afford a lavish set, so I used a program called Moviestorm to create a virtual stage for my cast, avatars for each character, and was able to find talented machinima animators to help bring the cast to life on the screen. I didn't have a concert hall, and my mentor and friend Clare Shore procured a hall for the premier as I submit Libertaria: The Virtual Opera to dozens, if not 100, film festivals throughout the world. I didn't have a budget, but I found new friends and talented artists to volunteer their talents and I worked hard at odd writing jobs and even had a Kickstarter crowdsource campaign to cover expenses. 

Would life had been easier if I had simply received a paycheck to create the opera of my dreams in the concert hall of my choice with a hundred musicians at my fingertips. Perhaps. But some artists thrive in the desert. Some artists know nothing else but the struggle up the ladder of success. Maybe someday someone will ask me to write an opera, all expenses paid, but that piece would never be another Libertaria.
Enhanced by Zemanta



Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 1

Feel like writing an opera is only for big name composers with big budgets? Or are you willing to take the plunge and create a work in one of the most compelling and cutting edge musical opera? Almost two years ago I embarked on the largest musical production I have created to date -  Libertaria: The Virtual Opera. After writing the award-winning Creation Oratorio and dozens of multimedia works, I wanted to combine my love of the audio and the visual into a single large scale work.  Find a Great Dramatic Story You need a strong story to write a compelling opera. Fortunately you can easily borrow from thousands of public domain works and modernize them. Think of West Side Story (just a contemporary version of Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet) .   Many great operas use Shakespeare, the Brothers Grimm , and Biblical stories, all of which include interesting characters, strong themes, and action.   Libertaria borrows heavily from messianic stories, but is se

Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 2

Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 2 After the incredibly positive feedback that I had from Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 1 , I thought I would talk a little bit about the composition angle of writing, at least how I do it in regards to vocal music . Here's a quick primer for anyone learning some of the basics of writing vocal music for opera, musicals, classical music , etc.  1. The Sketch I have had several great teachers in my life - Dr. Clare Shore , Hilton Jones, Dr. Kristine Burns, Paul Reller , Dr. Frederick Kaufman, Dr. Orlando Garcia, Chuck Owen, etc. My composition prof (and USF SYCOM guru) Paul Reller helped me develop the composition technique that I have had for years.  Download the Libertaria: The Virtual Opera Soundtrack at iTunes When I have the time to go through the entire composition process (because sometimes I have to skip a step or two for deadlines), I will start out with pencil, paper, and a piano (or keyboard, in my case).

Free Classical Sheet Music and Free Opera Downloads @ Scribd

Sheet Music (Photo credit: jayneandd ) Awhile ago I decided that I would upload the bulk of my music scores and sheet music to sites like Scribd, the Petrucci Music Library , and for free sheet music downloads. Some musicians told me that it was ridiculous to give away my music. The truth is that I don't depend on music publishing sales of my scores, and I would rather inspire a young piano student, percussion ensemble, opera singer, grandma, bored music student, or music teacher to play and study my music than hold on tight to my copyrights and let my music scores collect virtual dust on my hard drive.  The Petrucci Library, Scribd, and all have dozens of free music scores available for choir, vocal solos, piano, percussion, orchestra, opera, multimedia works, and more. You can see a short list of available free sheet music by checking out the Scores page. You might want to check out scores to my modern opera Libertaria: The Virtual Opera , an ex

Free Sheet Music Download: Classical Music Flute Solo Airborn Sand by Composer Sabrina Pena Young

Free Sheet Music Download: Classical Music Flute Solo Airborn Sand by Composer Sabrina Pena Young FREE MUSIC DOWNLOAD:,_Sabrina_Pena) Originally composed during a hurricane in South Florida . Inspired by a news reporter 's comments about "Airborne sand " whipping through her hair, the composer decided to write a work for flute that imitated the movements of sand whirling on a beach during a hurricane. It was subsequently performed at the University of South Florida in Tampa . Flute Solo Related articles Friday Freebie: Old Rugged Cross The Landing - Science fiction Robot music - Sabrina Pena Young Music Marketing Secrets: How to Use Twitter, Youtube, Social Media - S P... Quiz: Which Classical Music Era Are You? Latest iTunes 12.5 Beta Should Please Classical Music Fans After Dark - Romanian Rhapsody concert at the Limerick City Gallery of Art Russian inspiration for Clandeboye Festival The Tran

How to Write Film Music in 5 Easy Steps

How to Write Film Music in 5 Easy Steps How to write film music in five simple steps for any composer. Thanks for checking out this video! Subscribe for more great content! Like this? Then check out AMAZON BESTSELLER Composer Boot Camp 101, a comprehensive guide to songwriting, composition, and film music with 50 exercises for students, educators, and music professionals! DOWNLOAD TODAY

The Phantom of the Opera - Prague Cello Quartet

The Phantom of the Opera - Prague Cello Quartet

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Songwriter?

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Songwriter?  Becoming a successful songwriter is the dream of many musicians. But knowing how to write a song , learn an instrument, and make a successful musical career can seem impossible. Well, it does take a lot of work. Not everyone that wants to be a professional musician will succeed, and many just enjoy writing songs as a fun hobby for their enjoyment.  Do I need to Sing or Play a Musical Instrument? This might seem like a simple question, but it actually has a complicated answer. Why? Some songwriters never learned a single instrument yet can come up with great lyrics and catchy melodies. Others have played piano or guitar for years or are trained singers. So what is the answer?  As a songwriter, you need to understand different aspects of the songwriting process. That doesn't mean you have to have an incredible voice or be the best guitar player on the block. What it does  mean is that you need to know music. There is no better

What is Blue? and other Post Postmodernist Thoughts

1000 Pennies for Your Thoughts - NARA - 534149 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) One of my many hats is online university instructor. I teach courses in Media and Music History. In my Media in American Society class, we discuss many aspects of media, including truth in media, media conglomeration, marketing, advertising, and the like.  Today my students had an intriguing discussion/debate online about news and partisan politics. The debate was a healthy one, with some students claiming that they see all sides, others describing their favorite political pundits, and others lamenting the lack of authenticity in the media today. In the end, the fact that there would be no answer to today's questions, largely due to the lack of authenticity and the inability to trust anything in print, online, on a TV, spoken by a political leader, etc. etc., I brought up a short discussion on postmodernism, postpostmodernism , and its effects on American culture.  Here is a small snippet that I though