5 questions to Dale Trumbore (Composer)

As a composer, are you inspired by other art forms? If so which ones?

My compositions are usually grounded in some non-musical element, whether that’s brainwave patterns during sleep (Stages of Sleep), suspension of disbelief (Disbelief & Suspensions), or the practice time required to master a new skill (10,000 Hours). This inspirational element varies from piece to piece, but I do find that I’m continually drawn to and inspired by poetry. The piece that I’m working on now, Invisible rhymes for solo instrument and percussion, is structurally based on the rhyme schemes of several poem forms (pantoum, sonnet, villanelle, haiku, sestina, and ghazal). I also find myself drawn over and over again to setting poetry for voice, and that’s resulted in ongoing collaborations with several poets writing today, including Annie Finch, Julie Kane, and Robin Myers.

Do you use a computer for your work? When did you start?

I’ve been using a computer practically since I began composing. I think the first software notation program I used was something really basic that one of my parents bought for me when I was 12. I was introduced to Sibelius as a junior in high school music theory class, and I’ve been using that ever since to compose.

Do you still use paper? What for?

I go back and forth between paper and the computer. Composing on paper is a good way for me to jot down sketches or initial ideas, but I do the majority of my composing at the computer. Even when I’m notating music in Sibelius, though, I often print out the piece I’m writing so that I can scribble changes directly onto the score, and then I’ll put those changes back into the computer. It’s a constant back-and-forth between the two.

Does working on a computer affect the way you compose?

I think I’ve struck my own balance in alternating between paper and computer; I’ve experimented with writing more on paper, but for whatever reason, I find composing at the piano and notating music in the computer to be the best process for me. I do notice that if I’m composing mostly on paper, I’m more concerned with writing down ideas that feel final; this leads to a slower process in getting ideas down, but those ideas are less likely to be rejected later on. Writing on a computer, I’m much more likely to write, delete, and rewrite.

Are you concerned with a possible loss of craftsmanship because of technology?

I think every beginning composer runs the risk of falling into the traps of relying heavily on computer-generated playback, in that a composer may quickly become attached to phrasing, notes, or fast tempi that sound fine on the computer playback but are difficult or even impossible for a real performer to play. In addition to making use of computer-generated playback, a composer should envision a live performance of the score without the aid of the computer, and with the specific limitations of each instrument in mind. Aside from this, though, I think recent technology has opened up many new creative possibilities for composition–possibilities that haven’t even been fully explored yet and possibilities that involve a new, specific skill set.

Los Angeles-based composer Dale Trumbore has won numerous awards for her compositions, including those sponsored by Chanticleer, the Harmonium Choral Society, Lyrica Chamber Music, and the Society for Universal Sacred Music. Trumbore’s works have been performed by ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, the USC Thornton Symphony, the New York Virtuoso Singers, the Boston New Music Initiative, and the Orange County Women’s Chorus. Website: http://www.daletrumbore.com. Check also her concert in Hollywood this Saturday: http://www.pitchengine.com/pitch/135185