Creative Jeffers

definition of jeffers here

"I've long been fascinated with the habits of prolific creative people — Chefs and inventors, opera directors and sci fi writers, architects and archeologists... The creative apparatus in that brain of theirs is essentially a well-oiled machine, wrought from hard-won craft and discipline, in order to catch the wildest flights of fancy."   

Gabriela Lena Frank

Composers accepted into the Creative Jeffers program are given the opportunity to develop new creative techniques, individually customized according to personal vision and aesthetic, for their studio habit. 

These techniques largely stem from my own personal philosophy of “feeding the habit” — Much in the way that performers will spend hours a day practicing scales and etudes with the understanding that these will not be performed onstage but are yet embedded everywhere in the repertoire, I believe that composers can also embark on a regime of creative games and exercises that enhance our compositional command, introducing an element of "disciplined play," essential for creativity. 

Over five days in Boonville, CA (not including two travel days), composers will work closely with me, composing a suggested minimum of four hours a day in solitude supplemented by daily group meetings and select group meals. Before arriving, composers are invited to consult with me via Skype to discuss their musical goals that will dictate the direction of their practicum while in Boonville. Thus, a sampling of the composing exercises we collectively embark on might include:

• Re-configuring passages of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for the Pierrot ensemble (addressing orchestration)

• Turning the final brutal Sacrificial Dance of the Rite of Spring into a poignant adagio (addressing control over mood and emotion)

• Setting the same text phrase in multiple different ways for contrasting effect (addressing control over lyric materials)

• Writing a vocal line to be superimposed over Witold Lutoslawki's Third Symphony (further addressing lyric materials) 

• Connecting passages from Ruth Crawford Seeger’s string quartet to the second movement of Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (addressing transitions)

• Looking at the extracted solo part for a lesser-known concerto or the libretto of a lesser-known opera of a master composer and imagining alternative possible tutti settings (addressing multiple issues at once)

• Practicing conveying the essence of a non-western culture within a western classical canon (addressing authentic multiculturalism in the spirit of “mestizaje”)

Composers will be encouraged to bring in pieces they have a particular affection for as well as works of their own to use as raw material for such creative exercises. (Please note: The use of music under copyright mandates that these exercises are solely for personal study and not for public performance, publication, or recording.) 

While in residence over this intensely creative week, there is NO expectation for accepted composers to produce pristine elegant results immediately. In this way, we can think of the piano student who cannot master a new fingering demonstrated by his or her teacher right away but who leaves the lesson with the expectation that after a week of practice, they will have gained mastery over this new form of expression. We can also think of the goals of "pure research," where a scientist carries out experiments to innovate fundamental concepts without thinking of immediately marketable results. Rather, a more open-ended exploration yields results that find their application further down the line. Therefore, the most important lesson that composers will take away from this practicum with me are the tools to develop a highly personal, disciplined, and long-term practice of creative play that eventually finds potent expression in their works. 

Articles by leading psychology experts that study creativity and interviews with creative types themselves may be assigned for group discussion, depending on the make-up of composers accepted. No more than four people will be accepted and each will have his or her own private room equipped with a desk, small music keyboard (module only), and a large screen monitor for laptop hook-up. A shared printer will be available for a small supply fee, and composers will need to bring his or her own pencils and manuscript paper. The schedule will be structured so that large blocks of open time are available for composing and walking in the woods for creative inspiration in between our group meetings.