“Normally I just write music just on my own, and then in rehearsal problems appear. Sometimes you cannot change in that moment because it’s too late. This kind of working together is so amazing, maybe it’s slower because I give an idea and we have to change things, but actually it’s really helpful because in the end, it happens that composers sometimes have an idea in our mind and then the idea doesn’t work in reality. How important it is to be able to work with musicians involved, to exchange opinions, to learn a lot from them… it’s an amazing experience.”Participant
James is accepting new or unrecorded/unperformed scores/pieces (including but not limited to staff notated scores, graphic scores, images, descriptive pieces/text, moving image accompaniments, improvised works, combinations of any of these) for solo double bass or double bass as part of a bigger group, and providing free studio quality AV recordings for portfolios. Previously performed/recorded pieces are also accepted but priority is given to those without existing documentation. The project is ongoing and there are no deadlines.
As a starting point, the piece/idea may belong to one or more of the following categories:
- pre-existing finished piece with no limit on date composed (unpremiered/unrecorded pieces are prioritised)
- newly written or in progress idea that could benefit from the input of a performer to develop concrete methods for notation, improvisation, technical clarifications etc.
- the start of an idea, cell, germ that you want to explore – notated or not
- idea for a completely new collaboration, which could be also be interdisciplinary, or ensemble piece
Additionally, James is also offering to check/read through/offer feedback on bass parts including where he is not the performer involved in the piece or project, for example as part of chamber or orchestral pieces for ensembles. There are opportunities to workshop music with James remotely through regular Zoom workshops in order to gain insight into composing for the double bass, hear the pieces in progress and connect with other composers. You can also join as an observer – it’s completely free to get involved and no fragment of an idea is too small to bring along.
This initiative was started as a way to connect and strengthen composer/performer relationships, to develop knowledge and skills in writing for the bass as well as to provide new possibilities and challenges for the instrument, with a focus on embedding cooperative work and improvisation in the creative process. Its implementation was also designed to provide a counter balance to the traditional world of ‘call for scores’ in the new music industry, which are often limited to certain age groups, contain entry fees, are location based, or pre-judged on existing professional recognition or CVs, as well as being highly competitive. The fact that these opportunities almost exclusively use the word ‘score’ also describes how focused the system is on (White) Western European ideals of music writing and communication, and implies that future success is dependent on continuing this form of musical communication as the most important and relevant.
Additionally, by overtly and consistently focusing on ’emerging composers’ and often equating that term with those under 25/30, these organisations can inadvertently uphold myths of meritocracy and continue to prevent access to professional and portfolio development to a range of groups affected by conscious discrimination and unconscious bias – by not taking into account this prior and continuing discrimination through historic systemic exclusionary practises (for example, being self-taught, denied access to educational institutions through generations, facing caring responsibilities or long-term health issues, coming to composition later on in life or through a non-institutional route), organisations and ensembles can facilitate intersectional discrimination based on age, gender identity, sexual identity, class, race, ethnicity and disability. This ‘call for pieces’ is designed to be free and accessible to all by using inclusionary workshop practises, placing no limits on age, location, educational background or experience, completely removing the element of competition and reducing barriers due to financial status. James recognises that there will be experiences that are not recognised within this short statement and endeavours to continue to listen, work and improve this process and his wider work to be more understanding, generous and inclusive.
For 2022/23, James will commission 3 new works by Nick Dunston, Yaz Lancaster and Jamie Elless through the GVL Scholarship. Read more here.
If you’re interested in getting involved, contact me here
The previously premiered pieces can be found below and will be updated regularly.
“Working on a piece with James was such a satisfying and educational experience, and such a rare opportunity!”Participant
tremors in the rift between – James Thomas
Premiered 29th March 2023 at Firth Hall, Sheffield University alongside student pieces as part of the workshop ‘composing for double bass and improvising musicians’ – see the student pieces here
online workshop – Nick Dunston, Jamie Elless, Yaz Lancaster
workshop of pieces commissioned with the support of GVL
Beethoven Immortal Beloved – Sofia Pan
created as part of the workshop ‘composing for double bass and improvising musicians’ at Leeds Conservatoire, March 2022 – click here to see all the student pieces
Concealed/Classified 30 for James Banner – Ben Gaunt
Premiered November 6th 2021
Undertones – Ozzy Moysey
Premiered November 9th 2021
Fundamentals of the New Normal – Rachel Beckles Willson
Premiered October 29th 2021
Hospice (for six double basses) – Jamie Elless
Premiered May 2nd 2021
Four Studies on the Subject of OMORI (for solo bass) – Zygmund de Somogyi
Premiered April 7th 2021
Additionally, I am always open to new collaborations (music/multi-disciplinary) with the bass or as composer/sound designer – get in touch if you have an idea you’d like to talk about