From January to March, Michael Sterling Smith and Michael Capone worked together to compose “The Broca Divide.”
Smith, a composer, wanted to create a solo piece for and with Capone, a violist, after working with him and a string quartet composition at the University of North Texas.
They started with a general sound and the desire to show this sound through physical gestures in Capone’s performance.
Smith’s completed piece was one of 86 compositions performed at the national conference of the Society of Composers, Inc. hosted at the University of Florida from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14. The organization also celebrated its 50th anniversary at the conference.
Smith participated in last year’s conference. However, as a UF alumnus who graduated in 2013 with a master’s degree in music, the conference held at UF has special meaning for him.
“It was a good opportunity to come back and show how I’ve grown,” he said.
UF has never hosted the national conference before, said conference co-host Paul Richards.
He said that it was a morale-building experience to have the entire school of music involved in the planning process.
“We’re trying to make this a celebration of the organization, rather than a standard annual conference,” Richards said.
The conference consisted of 12 concerts that featured the works of composers from around the country. The compositions were submitted for consideration through an official entry process, Richards said.
He said over 641 compositions were submitted, but only 90 were selected, and due to scheduling conflicts, 86 of the 90 selected compositions were ultimately performed.
“We selected those based on the artistic merit of the works, but also to some degree on the feasibility,” Richards said. “We need to have the right kind of performers available.”
To find performers, Richards said he and co-host James Paul Sain reached out to UF faculty members who could perform the pieces and also recommend students who could perform.
Richards said it is also an unofficial rule that the host school refrain from submitting its own compositions from current students and faculty. They can help perform other people’s pieces, but not their own.
Kristen Stoner, a UF flute professor, is one of the faculty members involved in choosing and performing compositions.
She said her motivation for selecting a piece was if the composition was interesting, well-written, fun to perform and playable.
“There are some things that composers write that can be performed by a computer but not really by a human being,” she said.
She performed “Musashi,” a flute composition with prerecorded sound and video, and she also conducted a flute choir called “Cloudscapes.”
James Paul Sain, the other conference co-host, is the president of the Society of Composers, Inc.
He said he and Richards have tried to involve a wider variety of music than in previous conferences—from fixed media with recorded musical sounds and electro-acoustic works to contemporary opera and jazz.
Stoner noted that the conference has a positive side effect by bringing the school of music together in ways that wouldn’t normally happen.
“The students performing for a chamber opera are people that might not have interacted previously,” she said. “Now they’re getting to know each other and make connections and have experiences that they wouldn’t have previously had.”