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  • Writer's pictureandreahywong

The 1st Hong Kong International Composition Competition for Chromatic Harmonica 2021

Alright. So I came across a post by my favourite harmonica player, Cy Leo, on Instagram (if you haven’t already, you have got to hear his work! I still need to finish transcribing my favourite piece on his latest album, Angel and Demon)…

… and I might’ve done something impulsive.

I signed up.

Obviously I have nothing to submit at the moment, but I applied to receive details and such. I’m not 100% sure why but seeing this felt right – maybe the timing, and where I feel in my skills right now (not confident, by the way). I’m not sure if it’s working from home lately, or not feeling like I’m being creative enough… but I immediately felt so much excitement perusing all the details and seeing if it was something reasonable I could try. Let’s take a look!

I love how this event wants to connect different people – composers, musicians, and the public both locally and globally – in order to promote the harmonica. The harmonica is definitely not as common of an instrument than say the piano or violin. In fact, many people (my past self included!) are not even aware that professional harmonica exist! What a heartfelt cause; I remember the first time I discovered harmonica repertoire and was completely captivated by it.

Regarding the competition itself, composition submissions are due Thurs, July 15, 2021, reviewed in August 2021, (results) announced in September 2021, and recorded to an album to be released publicly and free!

Why Andrea… Why…

I may be going over my head here, but somehow this felt manageable for me (Category A is for solo harmonica and piano accompaniment which is the one I think I’m going to try!). I have so many mental blocks and hang ups with composing. It’s daunting and foreign and uncomfortable. But I know I want to try it, and hopefully be more comfortable and write something at least I am satisfied with, and this opportunity seemed to provide what I needed to get started! I definitely know I could just compose something without an external reason, but something about being part of something larger than myself felt inspiring and pushed me to make that impulse decision to just click Apply. The cause, the structure, the deadline, the task, the eligibility, the accessibility… I think I’m up for the task! Honestly, if I end up submitting anything... that's a major win. I also love that there’s an educational aspect to this (I do love learning!) and that they have Online Education Resource videos for people who haven’t composed for a 12-hole chromatic harmonica before – that’s me!


Alright. I guess there’s nothing left to do than to... get started? I figured I can at least organize myself and set up a little schedule/guideline to stay on track. Here are the rules and regulations regarding the submission format:

I would need to submit a full score in pdf. I’m not going to lie, I’m tempted to do everything in Musescore rather than use what most professionals use and I think maybe that’s ok? Section 3.5 mentions an audio version (recorded or synthesized)… I’ve never done anything like this before and I don’t know if that would actually add to the piece but I’m thinking… even if it never gets submitted, this might be a good opportunity to not just compose, but also work with virtual instruments (as I don’t play the harmonica) and/or recording (if I can even play what I write for the piano). We’ll have to see! I expect that will actually take a lot of time so if we work backwards from the submission due date in July...

Task: work on the audio format (recording/virtual instruments in DAW) Estimate: 3 months Latest start date: April 1

Task: collecting feedback/editing/polish/details/formatting the finished composition Estimate: 1 month Latest start date: March 1

If I pretend that it’s already November (where did 2020 even go?!), that gives me 4 months to write something between 6-8 minutes. Not that compositions are written linearly in progress, but for simplicity, assuming steady progress (it won't be...)… I would need to write 8 minutes (480 seconds) worth of music in 17 weeks (between Nov 1 and March 1). That’s a minimum of 28.2 (let’s round up to) 30 seconds a week.

So I guess my schedule is to:

  1. Finish composition by March 1

  2. Ask friends/fam for feedback, edit, polish, finalize by April 1

  3. Start looking at creating an audio format to possibly submit

  4. Submit July 1 (let’s not be last minute and give 2 weeks wiggle room. There'll be a form to figure out how to submit and all that other stuff… something’s going to come up… something always does)

I’ll have to track my progress. I’m really feeling like I’m going to learn so much from this! As always… let’s track it with a hashtag: #ICCCH2021_HKHarmonica!

Now What?

Here’s a killer question… what am I going to write? A good question for the next post… #future #optimistic #excited #inspired


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