|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
The Numinosum Blog
The summer of 2020 I held my first-ever online fundraiser, in order to help complete the recording of my opera The Grey Land. Yes, I know it was a hell of a time—global pandemic, constant assaults on democracy and ideals of the country, wide-spread protest against racial injustice, and the backlash it engendered—and while I only received one-third of my goal, it was enough, along with my own funds, to help me finish the recording’s production, which is set to be released on November 20 on New Amsterdam Records. One of the perks I offered in exchange for donations was “Numinous will play YOUR Large Ensemble Composition!” I founded Numinous 20 years ago with the express purpose of performing my music—because at the time of the founding, I was not going to wait for someone to express interest in my music or to beg some ensemble to please play my music, I was going to take matters into my own hands! So this young Black American composer, who leans toward contemporary "classical music/new music," founded his own large chamber orchestra, and through hard work, little institutional support but some good fortune and luck, Numinous has performed exclusively my music since the year 2000 (except for when we performed my music alongside that of composer Imani Uzuri as a part of the 2013 Ecstatic Music Festival).
An individual artist-run, independent large ensemble is difficult to organize, manage and fund but I have been able to keep Numinous going for these 20 years (really, what choice do I have to consistently have my own music performed?)! So in preparing the "Numinous plays your Large Ensemble composition" perk with the donors, I began to think about how wonderful it would be if, as a young composer I had had an opportunity to write for a large ensemble. In particular, what would it have meant as a composer who is Black to have that kind of opportunity, which is hard for most composers to achieve anyway, let alone someone who is just starting out or someone with the talent but doesn’t have the connections or chance. As a university undergraduate I asked my band director (and also my conducting teacher) if the wind ensemble could read through my very first band piece. And they did! I lived off of my recording of that reading session, imperfect as it was, for years; I learned so much from hearing my first large ensemble work being played. Later that same year I asked the university community orchestra director if they could read my first string orchestra piece. And they did! And again, I learned so much from the experience. Over the years it hasn’t been easy, but I have been lucky (and stubborn) with making my own opportunities to have my music heard and to find my own voice, which in turn has lead to other opportunities. So while Numinous will always be primarily a vehicle for my compositions, I started thinking of finding a way to give back, to pay it forward—and the Numinous Initiative came to my mind.
Through the Numinous Initiative, my ensemble Numinous will perform the large ensemble composition of six (6) Black, African-American, Black mixed composers that I will choose. I’ll be looking for composers who have a defined and/or intriguing compositional voice/perspective (even if not quite developed or fully achieved yet); music that can possibly fit Numinous stylistically, although I’m not really looking for anything that sounds like what I’d write for Numinous—I want to hear YOU; music that can possibly be realized with a couple of rehearsals—anything overly complex or requiring a lot of rehearsals in order to perform won’t be possible); I’ll also be looking for a program that would be interesting and varied. If chosen you will provide clear and legible PDF scores and parts from one of the standard computer notation products (if you are the high-school student or younger I can help you, if you don’t have experience in formatting scores & parts).
The goal of the first Numinous Initiative performance will hopefully involve:
· One high school aged student or younger composer
· One current or recently graduated undergraduate college or university student composer
· Four other composers, any age;
with a DEADLINE to apply of DECEMBER 20, 2020. I will choose composers and inform all applicants of the results by the beginning of February 2021.
The performance will take place somewhere in New York City and with all of the unknowns about performances my best guess is that it will be sometime in 2022. The instrumentation will be the ensemble I used for Changing Same, with an additional keyboard—21 musicians. While this is not a commission (at least for now), all of the expenses and logistics of organizing the ensemble, rehearsals, and concert, including a recording of the performance, will be taken care of by myself. While it would be wonderful for you to compose a new piece for Numinous to perform, if chosen I’m open to you orchestrating one of your existing works for the Numinous instrumentation, particularly if it’s never been performed before. Whether existing or newly composed it should be between 5-12 minutes long, with 7-10 minutes being ideal.
To apply send an email to [ classicallyblack @ numinousmusic.com ] with the subject line reading:
Numinous Initiative_[Your Name]. Include the following in the email:
· Email address
· Where you live (city, state, and/or country)
· Website address (if you don’t have a website, send a short bio with a photo; if you have a website I don’t need a bio or photo)
· Note, according to your status/age, if you are applying as “HS or younger” or “College” or “Other”
· TWO (2) Audio and/or Video Links of your compositions that you feel are your strongest (website, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, Vimeo, DropBox links--DO NOT email me the files); solo, chamber, large ensemble, orchestra, whatever you feel are some of your best work. If the piece is longer than 10 minutes, please include a note about where to start to listen. If any of the compositions you link are ones you are considering for Numinous to perform, please note that. The audio can be live performance, recording, or MIDI/computer realization.
· TWO (2) PDF scores of above links are optional. If your audio/video file is MIDI, then also include a score; if it’s a live performance, score is optional. If you send scores please make them TRANSPOSED SCORES.
Again DEADLINE for me to receive any application is by the end of the day DECEMBER 20, 2020.
If you’ve never heard Numinous then I suggest going to numinous.bandcamp.com and you can listen to some of our albums, in particular Changing Same or Vipassana; you can also visit my website www.numinousmusic.com to listen to some of the compositions I’ve written. But of course what I do with Numinous may not be what you do so don’t limit yourself!
Since this is new I don’t know exactly what to expect. But I hope, if this is successful, to continue the Initiative in future years and maybe expanding it to a different and wider range of composers. But for now, I encourage any Black, African-American, Black mixed composers, just starting out or established, of any gender to apply; and I look forward to listening to your music!
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.