Right. So, I realize that it has been quite a while since I’ve posted, which I believe was the very first thing I said I wouldn’t do when I started this blog. That being said, I’ve evidently been very busy! It’s been 7 weeks now since I have left the states, and I have to say to Deutschland has been absolutely wonderful. I’m certain I’ve already forgotten many of the details that I had intended to write about, but I will try to recount the experience to the best of my ability…
I spent the first couple of days in a group orientation with the director of the German Fulbright Kommission and a number of former grantees, and then the remaining six weeks in an intensive language program with 27 fellow Fulbright Research grantees and 5 spouses. We additionally had a number of excursions, and needless to say spent a whole lot of time together. The group was absolutely wonderful, and I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly diverse the other participants in the program were!
There were a total of six musicians here in Marburg, two spouses and four grantees including myself, and they’re each headed off to Berlin, Leipzig and Munich. I also made a number of good friends whose fields are as varied as Chemistry, Political Science, Poetry, Architecture, Classics, Paleoanthropology, Astronomy, Engineering, Art History, Mathematics, History, Biology, American Studies (the Germans, of course), and Education. I am certain I am forgetting many others as well!
Our time spent together, in addition to approximately six hours each day in class and at the Mensa, included excursions to Frankfurt, Gießen, Köln, and many other activities in Marburg including canoe trips, castle tours, opera premieres and visiting art museums. The great thing is that even though we are now spread out all over Germany, each of us are here for a full year of research that will almost inevitably mean visiting most areas of the country (and elsewhere), where we now have a strong network of friends and colleagues with which to visit or stay.
The entire program was remarkably well organized and coordinated, and I am so grateful that a very large majority of the bureaucracy that is unavoidably associated with studying abroad was taken care of in advance by the Fulbright Kommission, including our Visas, Bank Accounts, Matriculation, Housing (in Marburg), Language courses, and even the excursions! I couldn’t have been happier about the entire process, and the general vibe of the group and Fulbright employees/representatives was incredibly positive.
The language courses were quite challenging (for me!), but very much worthwhile and I feel that it was a good foundation for working on my Deutsch independently throughout my time here. I think the most wonderful thing was that there is almost no other situation I can imagine where such a diverse group of specialists would spend so much time together and discuss so many different topics. It made me realize how incredibly isolated I had really been, essentially never leaving the Music Building in the last 5 years at two different Universities!
This was a very eye opening experience, and I am also quite grateful that a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with several of them presented itself. Each March, Fulbright holds a four day conference in Berlin, where there is a gala concert that features the musicians here in Germany. In collaboration with Kate Thorpe (no relation!), a poet who just finished her Master’s in Iowa City, and Thomas Heuser, a conductor and DMA candidate at Cincinnati College-Conservatory, I’ve been commissioned to write a quasi-stage work to be performed at the Berlin conference for Mezzo-Soprano, Baritone and an as-of-yet undetermined chamber ensemble (dependent on the musicians attending the conference), but likely some sort of expanded Pierrot ensemble. Kate will be writing the text throughout the month of October, and I eagerly await starting work on it as soon as it is completed!
Although my time in Marburg has been absolutely wonderful and I have met so many amazing individuals, I know that my experience in Hamburg will be equally incredible and I am very excited to be moving up there tomorrow afternoon. Marburg is a beautiful city that displays an almost a stereotypically picturesque side of Germany, but having visited Hamburg previously, I know that the energy and atmosphere of the city is exactly right for me and should provide an environment in which to work very productively and provide plenty of artistic stimulation!
There is something about it, an edge perhaps, that I’ve never felt anywhere else. When I visited briefly several weeks ago, I had a substantial period of time to explore and get a sense of the layout, the transportation, the people, and even the Hochschule für Musik und Theater where I met with two master’s student composers that were very friendly and informative. I spent a good chunk of that time in Alsterpark, located directly behind the Hochschule, which I cannot seem to get enough of.
I anticipate I will be spending many, many hours there in between long hours of composing! Additionally, I have secured an inexpensive WG (shared-flat) very close to the center of Hamburg, where I will be able to easily get to and from the Hochschule to do most of my work. I am greatly looking forward to meeting both of my Professors that I will be studying with privately, Peter Michael Hamel and Manfred Stahnke, as well as the rest of the faculty and students. I’ve also been tossing around concepts for a number of other works to write this year, including a possible commission from a new music ensemble in Antwerp, a Piano Trio, and a number of solo works for winds and for voice.
Even though my time in Marburg had shifted my focus from actively composing to studying Deutsch and socializing with awesome people, I do feel that the time spent was worthwhile and allowed me to reflect on a number of things that have been in the back of my mind for some time now. The first order of business (starting tomorrow, when I arrive in Hamburg) will be to complete the revisions and orchestration of ‘The Gods of Pegana, Part I’, and then to intensively begin writing these new works, as well as beginning my research in a more ‘hands-on’ fashion.
Thanks for reading, and greetings from Deutschland!