When Hilary Hahn announced the In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores project, it sounded like an incredible concept of the likes that had never been tried. I know that she had mentioned in passing that she was going to have some sort of CD that would feature all-new contemporary encores, but I don’t think anyone anticipated that it would be an epic 27 pieces, and from composers as diverse as Jennifer Higdon, Du Yun, Nico Muhly, Mason Bates, Somei Satoh, Edgar Meyer, and James Newton Howard (composer of The Village soundtrack). She’s already been premiering 13 of the pieces in concert and intends to do so with the second half next year, and the 27th will be among them. The recording of the CD is supposed to begin after the performances this season, and she plans to release it sometime in the 2013-14 season.
When the press release had said that the 27th composer would be announced “in an unorthodox fashion”, my first instinct was to suspect that Hahn would reveal that she herself was composing the 27th encore, and a couple of things spurred me on: A) The fact that she had composed new cadenzas for the 3rd Mozart Concerto for the 80th Birthday Concert for Pope Benedict XVI (of course she wouldn’t be the first violinist to write cadenzas, but she also wouldn’t be the first to transform into a composer), B) There had appeared a short flow of actual Twitter posts where @violincase had tweeted that Hilary was packing and bringing “…a pencil…sheet music…audio files, a USB stick, and blank music paper? What?”. Of course, the tweet also mentioned she was bringing hiking boots and a scarf, but the pencil and blank paper was enough to make me think this was part of the unorthodox reveal.
But Hilary had completely shot this theory down when Laurie Niles (Violinist.com) asked her about the project:
“We’re still putting off the announcement until next month but we promise details by the end of October. It will be clear, and no, I’m not the composer! I’ve seen a lot of speculation that maybe I’m composing it, but no. I’ll leave it up to someone who is interested and is good at it. That’s not the surprise.”
Mind you, this had me also thinking possibly somebody huge like Philip Glass or John Adams may have been the 27th composer surprise.
Well, now we have the surprise, and in many ways this is much more exciting than if Hilary had made a composer transition. She is going to let John Q. Public (at least the John Q. Public’s that have “composer” in their resume, and in some cases it would be a “Joan Q. Public” as well ;)) send her his or her encore, and then she selects the winner, who gets their piece played in concert and included on the CD. The runners-up may even get special mention on her website and at least one extra piece would possibly be a bonus track on the CD. It won’t be until next year that we find out who, but for now, it will be interesting to see how many people are going to participate. I hadn’t really thought about contributing as I have only written pop songs and recorded some mildly experimental improvisations, but I hope all my Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn friends and good acquaintances that compose are going to give it a shot. Good luck to all of you that do! I will be rooting for you!
The Hilary Hahn Encore Contest
Official page for the contest