Sunday, September 1, 2013

Waiting online

Three years ago when this blog was in its infancy — and growing much faster than it's growing now, but without anywhere near as much hair — I posted about composer faux pas ...

... wait, what's the plural of faux pas? Because, like, you see, in French faux is already plural, even though it describes something singular, and, and ...

... about composer fauxs paux as they relate to physical applications for jobs. Some of the points are also germane to applications for things like the Barlow grant or commission, the Rome Prize, some artist colonies, etc. In sum, it's a list of simple things to do to avoid making the people evaluating you cranky.

There is currently a transition happening in the field toward online applications. Which changes things.

First, all scores and score samples will have to be digital now. Usually that means PDFs (which are easy to make in the standard notation programs); which, if your hit tunes are all hand copied, it's time to buy an autofeed scanner to make those gorgeous and very, very large multipage PDFs.

I just counted: including the one that currently doesn't work, Beff and I have five autofeed scanners. We rule, but only in a world with very strange rules. It's probably good news that the fifth one we got does more but was forty percent of the cost of the second one, and sixty-six percent of the cost of the first one.

Wait, why do we have five? Sigh, here's why. 1) an early autofeed scanner/color inkjet printer for online class handouts. Ahead of the technology curve, and it was one of the first ones available. 2) wi-fi networked laser printer as well as copier and scanner 3) wi-fi networked laser printer/scanner/copier for the house in Maine 4) large format tabloid (or "ledger") size scanner/copier, the least expensive of all of them 5) scanner/copier for the summer place for all users of the place.

One cool thing about the tabloid scanner is that I can now scan all my old sketches, being as I do my writing on my Mikey Paper. So called because it originated with hand-drawn 11x17 score paper made by Mike Gandolfi in 1980. So I have posted a bunch of sketches right here on this bloggy thing.

Thus. If there is ever a competition involving sketches and submissions that is online only, I am covered. I won't have to go back to them and rewrite them on letter-size paper, or reduce them on a copier, or cover them with sand and do a little dance.

But now there's lots and lots of online submitting of materials. I haven't had to do much submitting yet, (I've been busy sighing that I'm too busy sighing that I'm too busy sighing — wait, gotta reset the feedback loop — I've been busy sighing that work keeps me away from doing much cool stuff you can apply for) but I have certainly been on the other end — the guy who is charged with the evaluating via online applications, and who hates stuff that makes him cranky.

The advantage to online submissions and judging is that nobody has to call a meeting and figure out, by trial and error, when all the evaluating people are available. The evaluating people get to do it at their leisure, in their jammies or jodhpurs, spread across how ever much time it takes, with domestic animals in their laps, even. Also said evaluating people probably don't know who the other evaluating people are, so there aren't impasses when, say, there is no more popcorn. On the other hand, there is also no horse trading. That's an expression.

So. Then. As a sequel to that much earlier post, I write this to add a few little bits of advice to composers compelled to make online applications for stuff. Some online applications ask you to upload everything to their server, while others ask you to provide URLs where your stuff can be found, i.e. your website or a cloud service. Thus, some of the advice is more apropos to the latter type.

  • Scores that look sucky when printed look exactly as sucky as PDFs. Fix notation, don't let notes and accidentals collide with barlines, don't let the scores get crowded. Make the score beautiful. The good scores stick out (because there are so few of them), and make evaluating people smile just a little.
  • Check your mp3 before you upload it (or put it in your own space where the evaluating people are going to access it). Don't presume evaluating people are so busy they're not going to listen to all of your six-minute movement and cut it off before the movement is done. That's amateur hour stuff.
  • If you give a link to your score, make it a direct link to the score. How cranky do you think evaluating people get when your link is to your website and they have to fish through your oh so artsy interface to find what they are supposed to evaluate? Answer: infinity. The same applies to mp3s on your website. Also, if your score is on a download-for-money website, don't give that link and advise evaluating people to "click on Preview".
  • If you use a cloud storage service, learn what the interface looks like to evaluating people. I have encountered lots of Dropbox, box and google drive files as well as other services that I didn't recognize. I prefer box above all the others because there are preview options both for PDFs and mp3s. With dropbox and google drive, the evaluating people are compelled either to download your files before you can view/listen, and then later must muck around the hard drive in order to delete them — don't presume that evaluating people are going to be so in love with your work that they'll want to keep it for all time.
  • For sound files, SoundCloud is the bomb. Simple interface, no downloading, and there's a pretty picture to look at for evaluating people who like to do it stoned.
  • Remember when you've referenced a file in an application with a link in a cloud service. Don't delete those files from your dropbox, box, Copy, google drive, etc. before the stated deadline for notification. Because maximum crankiness ensues when the link to your score or sound file yields THE FILE IS NOT FOUND. Evaluating people are quick to hit DELETE in this case. That thing where evaluating people are concerned about you as an artist and about your forgetfulness and they don't mind emailing you to let you know it's missing and they have the time to wait days for you to put it back and email back about it — that only happens in old movies. And in imaginary old movies, at that (I watch a lot of those).

Now, see I get cranky just writing about getting cranky. Le feedback loop, c'est moi.

Update: it turns out we have six autofeed scanners. I got one of the first HP printers that let you print directly from an iPhone or iPad, and it's a color inkjet that just happens to include autofeed scanner. Not that the autofeed wasn't important. It was our Vermont printer for two years before we converted to laser. Currently it is in the guest room, and when you turn it on it screams my ink is really old!

Update 2: This post from classical music is boring brings up yet another issue in online applications.