Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome to The Guild of Able Polyphonists

This humble Blogspot site is the first step in building a fraternity of contrapuntal composers, which is an idea I've had for a few years now. This will not be an organization that just anyone can join, but will rather require members to display ability in polyphonic composition to gain entry into the guild, and then submit progressively better compositions to advance within the guild hierarchy.

The problem, as I see it, with online communities of composers thus far is that there is no benefit to membership: It costs nothing to join, and there is no reward for membership other than vacuous online friendships - regardless of how fun those may be - and the whole thing just becomes a mutual admiration society. A guild structure, on the other hand, requires members to perform to certain levels of proficiency, and provides benefits to membership and status that are concrete as well as honorary.

As I pondered how to structure this, I came upon the idea of hosting a gentlemanly competition that is ongoing, no matter how large the organization gets. For example, the entry level of membership in a guild is that of Apprentice. For this guild, an Apprentice Piece will have to be submitted and an entry fee of $2.00 paid. For every ten apprentice guild members chosen, one Best of Ten winner will be selected with an award of $10.00 given, which is exactly half of the total entry fees.

For the next level of Journeyman, a Journeyman Piece will have to be submitted along with an entry fee of $5.00. For every ten Journeymen selected, there will be a Best of Ten winner and $25.00 awarded. For the level of Master the fee will be $10.00 and the Best of Ten award will be $50.00. You get the idea.

Dues will also have to be paid. An Apprentice will only have to contribute $2.00 per year, and the entry fee for the apprentice piece will cover the first year. The level of Journeyman is $5.00 per year, and again the entry fee covers the first year. Likewise for a Master: $10.00 per year with the entry fee covering year one.

There will be eligibility requirements as well: Nobody will be allowed to go straight to the top, so to speak, without paying their dues. In other words, an Apprentice will not be eligible to progress to Journeyman until a year has passed and the second year's worth of dues are paid. If a member wishes to progress to the next level before the year is up, that is fine: Just pay the second year's worth of dues early, and you are all set. This will allow young students to get their money's worth in terms of membership time, while more established composers can progress at a faster rate, while still paying the same dues as everybody else.

Requirements for the first three levels will be thus:

An Apprentice Piece will be a short piece in two-part counterpoint that displays basic competence.

A Journeyman Piece will be a three-voice work of modest dimensions that displays fluency.

The Masterpiece will have to be a four-voice fugue that displays a comfortable mastery of the idiom.

Once the organization is off the ground, additional levels of Esteemed Master and Honorable Grandmaster may be added. I will never hold any of those levels, by the way: I will simply be the founder.

In the posts to come, I will provide the exemplars for each level as well as fleshing out more details.

These dollar amounts may seem trivial - and they are, to a point - but the idea is to engender actual competition among composers of counterpoint while keeping the trolls out. Also, the residual money will form the basis if the main site to come, which will allow for the provision of more benefits for members. For example, all accepted submissions will be hosted on the site, both in standard notation and as MPEG audio. All Best of Ten winners will also have their own pages. Every Journeyman and above will also have a micro blog: There will be much more.

Eventually, I would like to expand this into a physical location: A Guildhall. I happen to have the resources to get such an establishment going, but that's down the road a piece.

Feel free to add suggestions in the comments, but note that I review all comments before posting them.

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