The Bachtopus Accordion Ensemble is soliciting compositions directly from composers for their 2022 Composers’ Commissioning Fund. Note: This is not an open call for submissions. This fund is designed to promote awareness of contemporary accordion music in Brooklyn, provide composers with an opportunity to write for the instrument, and expand the repertoire for accordion ensembles. Submissions should be under ten minutes, written for intermediate accordion quartet, and accessible to the general public. Original work or a substantive arrangement of the composer’s previous work are acceptable. Solicitations begin immediately and will continue until eight commissions are completed. We will collaborate with composers as they work toward a final draft. Composers will be awarded $500 for the completion of the final draft within a time frame that is agreed upon.
George Washington Carver believed that “when you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” This year, Bachtopus is soliciting commissions based on the theme “Contemporary Folk Music,” which we loosely interpret as (1) contemporary art music inspired by a traditional musical style or, (2) wildly experimental music made accessible to the general public using folk music as a vehicle for their ideas.
About the Ensemble
Bachtopus is an accordion ensemble from New York City that primarily performs music by contemporary composers and Johann Sebastian Bach. The group is one of the few accordion ensembles in the United States that focuses primarily on new music. Having established a large repertoire in just a few years, Bachtopus seeks to play more original compositions, commissioned works, and contemporary music that is interesting and accessible.
About Our Audience
Our audience is comprised mainly of accordion enthusiasts and new music fans in New York City. We perform in formal and informal settings with widely varying acoustics, including reverberant churches and outdoor street festivals. We seek to add innovative compositions to our existing repertoire, but we also wish to avoid accordion tropes and compositions that alienate listeners.
About the Performances
Bachtopus is planning to perform six concerts in Brooklyn before December 31 that will feature original work from this pool of submissions. We are highly motivated to feature a few new compositions as early as Sept 1 during our annual fall concert. While we have several venues in mind, we are also seeking new venues where undiscovered audiences of contemporary accordion ensemble music might reside.
Duration: Submissions should be between approximately 5 and 10 minutes in duration.
Orchestration: Instrumentation should be for four standard accordions with an optional substitution of bass accordion for one of the instruments. Assume each standard accordion has 41 treble keys controlling four reed blocks (LMMH) and 120 bass buttons controlling 5 to 6 reed blocks. Please write for the Stradella bass mechanism rather than converter, free bass, or other bass configurations. While most professional ensembles use standard accordions, it is safe to assume that many ensembles use a combination of instruments with as few as three reeds (LMH) in the treble side. Very few intermediate/professional ensembles use diatonic (e.g., Cajun buttonbox) or musette configurations (LMMM). You can assume that most standard instruments come with palm switches, but very few semi-professional instruments are equipped with chin switches. Bass accordions typically have at least two reeds, but the keyboard layout varies greatly. It is also advantageous to have at least one part that does not require playing the bass mechanism. Some ensembles may have talented pianists who are still learning the bass mechanism. It may be useful to think of the ensemble as one orchestra rather than as four accordions. Please consult with us if you have questions.
Style: We are seeking scores that are innovative yet accessible. While we encourage music that is rooted in traditional folk music, avoid accordion tropes that you might find in the large accordion ensembles of the 1960s. As a rule of thumb, we request that you write music not typically associated with the accordion (e.g., polkas, tarantellas, tangos) unless you are secure you can present the genre in a new light (e.g., Guy Klucevsek’s album “Polka from the Fringe”). Additionally, we are seeking submissions that are innovative but not alienating. We are delighted by all genres of music and composition styles/techniques. However, we ask that you use experimental techniques to pique the interest of the listener and foster engagement by audience members with a wide range of ages, cultures, and listening experiences. Please consult with us if you have questions.
Difficulty: Submissions should not be too difficult to play. Many professional accordion ensembles featured on the internet are virtuosic, but we seek to build a repertoire that can be played by young musicians, aspiring amateurs, and semi-professional artists. Single lines should not be more difficult to play than the treble hand of the ABRSM syllabus (https://us.abrsm.org/en/our-exams/piano-exams/). Please observe the style guides for the piano accordion with Stradella bass system provided by Dr. Robert McMahon (http://www.ameraccord.com/artwork/2016/Feb16/Composersguidetotheaccordion.pdf). Please consult with us if you have questions.
Engraving: Submissions should be engraved using engraving software that can export .MUS, MusicXML, and PDF files. Sibelius exports (.SIB) are preferred for collaborating on scores. Under certain circumstances, handwritten submissions may be accepted, but the final score must be engraved. Musescore is an open-source engraving tool that can be downloaded for free here (https://musescore.org/en), and Sibelius has a free version with limitations.
Electronics: While we are not opposed to the use of amplification or electro-acoustic compositions, we cannot always guarantee that our venue will be ideal for such compositions. Scores with electronics and sound reinforcement are permitted, but keep in mind most ensembles around the world perform without amplification. Monophonic tracks are preferred. Stereo tracks are tolerated. However, we cannot accept tracks that require additional sound reinforcement or click tracks. We cannot accept electro-acoustic submissions, where one or more instruments use digital signal processing.
The development of scores for this project is designed to be an iterative collaboration between composer and performer. Deadlines may be adjusted to accommodate this process. After Sept 1st, we will continue to accept scores using a rolling deadline until we have eight final scores. Should a score be dropped from consideration, new scores will be solicited. We can only fund one score per composer, and composers who received commissions from the 2020 Commissioning Fund are not eligible. Arrangements of previously completed work should be substantively different from the original, idiomatic for accordion ensemble, and not violate existing copyright agreements. Because scores are accepted and completed using a timeline agreed upon between composer and performer, the following timeline should be taken as an example:
- July 1 – Composers will be approached for commissions
- August 1 – Composers will submit a 1-2 page sample score. Immediate feedback will be provided.
- Sept 1 – Composers will submit a completed rough draft of the score. Immediate feedback will be provided.
- Deadlines for the final draft will be agreed upon between the composer and performers, but the piece must be finished and performed by Dec 31st, 2022.
A contract will be completed by candidates and Robert O. Duncan, Director of Bachtopus. Composers will retain all rights to their work with the following exceptions. Bachtopus reserves the right to perform the work free of charge in perpetuity, and Bachtopus reserves the mechanical rights to recordings obtained during live/studio performances. Bachtopus will also retain synchronization rights to set the recorded music to any videos we make. Finally, composers must agree to promote the premiere of their work on their currently used listservs and social media. We reserve the right not to perform completed scores. In the event that we do not record/perform a score within one year of approving the final draft, all rights revert to the composer.
The Bachtopus Accordion Ensemble seeks to foster a community of composers, performers, and audience members to share the experience of new music and to explore ideas and views about music and culture. Diversity within this community might include, but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and socioeconomic status. All who share the value of inclusiveness are welcome to participate.
The Bachtopus Accordion Ensemble’s 2022 Composer Commissioning Fund is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC). Contributors:
- Brooklyn Arts Council
- New York City Department of Cultural Affairs