Applications are now accepted using a rolling deadline. Please make a brief statement of intent to let us know your interest.
The Bachtopus Accordion Ensemble requests submissions for their 2020 Composers’ Commissioning Fund. 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. The open call for applications and draft submissions begins March 1st and will continue until nine subawards are granted. 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.
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 and two concerts in Manhattan before December 21 that will feature original work from this pool of submissions. We are highly motivated to feature a few new compositions as early as May 3 during our annual spring 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) and James Crabb (http://www.rednoteensemble.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/HANDBOOK-FOR-CL.ACC-English.pdf). Please consult with us if you have questions.
Engraving: Submissions should be engraved using engraving software that can export .MUS 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).
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 March 1st, we will continue to accept scores using a rolling deadline until we have nine scores that have advanced to candidacy. Continued submissions will be accepted on a waitlist. Should a score be dropped from consideration, new scores will be reviewed from the waitlist. Applicants should only submit one score for consideration. 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:
- March 1 – Application window opens. Submit the initial application and supporting materials.
- March 15 – Notifications will be sent to initial applicants.
- April 1 – Selected candidates will submit a 1-2 page sample score.
- April 15 – Feedback on sample scores will be provided.
- May 1 – Candidates will submit a completed rough draft of the score.
- Deadlines for the final draft will be agreed upon between the composer and performers, but the piece must be finished and recorded by Dec 31st, 2020.
Scores will be reviewed by members of Bachtopus. Nine applications will advance to candidacy after the first round of submissions. Candidates will continue to collaborate on scores with Bachtopus until they are completed. We will accept and review applications until the first nine scores are completed. Only nine scores will be considered as candidates at any given time. Composers will be made aware of our decision to choose a different score if deadlines are not met. Scores must be completed within the agreed upon timeframe or September 1, 2020 to receive compensation.
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 performances. 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 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 2020 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