Collective (2015)




[Perc: Glockenspiel, Splash cymbal, Large thin suspended cymbal, Crash cymbal (prepared), Snare drum, Floor tom, Bass drum]


New York Youth Symphony; Joshua Gersen, conductor / 29 May 2016 / Carnegie Hall, NYC, New York, USA


commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony

According to Harvard psychology professor J. Richard Hackman, traditional orchestral musicians tend to experience less job satisfaction than federal prison guards. My goal in composing Collective was to write music in a way that increases the satisfaction of the musicians by giving them more ownership and control over what they play. The conductor is still the CEO of this 100-person organization, but now the power structure is "flatter", resembling that of a company like Google.

Every individual in the orchestra, at some point in this piece, has to make a personal decision about what note to play and when to play it. In some sections, leaders within the orchestra choose when to play a given melody, while the conductor decides in realtime for how long the orchestra sustains each harmony. The conductor here has a similar role to that of a jazz pianist, like Bill Evans playing Flamenco Sketches, listening closely to a slowly unfolding trumpet solo for just the right moment to strike the next chord. Every performance is alive, organic, changing.

But of course this is a dangerous move, rejecting the traditional hierarchy. Does this new structure still allow these 100 people to create meaningful, affecting music?


contact Brendan for perusal audio

Order score/parts:

To order scores and parts or to license a performance, visit the Donemus website.

Back to Works