Now in its eighth year, the small but determined group Music Fix is about to release its first CD, Northern Impressions, to coincide with their March 3 concert at the First Unitarian Society Meeting House. The concert program will feature the three works contained on the disc -- compositions by Dale Fix, Joan Wildman, and Christopher B. Frye -- plus Joel Naumann's short overture Flourishes, written for Music Fix and premiered last fall.
Comprising clarinetist Timm Gould, bassoonist Cynthia Cameron-Fix and pianist Dale Fix, the group began its ambitious life in 1987 as a larger group, a wind quintet with piano. But constant struggles over rehearsal schedules and other forces eventually reduced the group to its present instrumentation, a step that catalyzed the next phase of its development: sponsors of new composition. "It was sort of a mission at first," remarks Dale Fix, "because there was not much repertory for this instrumentation. Since then, we've commissioned other works as well, and we've also been asked to write new music ourselves, including some songs."
Music Fix is a bare-bones effort, financially. "We're in it for the long haul," Fix says. "We've received support from Dane County, from the Wisconsin Arts Board, and from private patrons, as well as from ticket revenues at our concerts, and anything we get from sales of the CD will be plowed back into the effort." Fix works full time as a bookkeeper, so the music group does not have to supply the roof over his family's head. "It's a side benefit that we can do as we please, making our own decisions," he says.
I asked Fix about the process of commissioning new music. "We've used two approaches, mostly," he said. "The contests, offering a $1,000 prize, are really a kind of fishing expedition, to see what we can get. And we get a lot, as it has turned out." More often, the group discusses options with its board of directors, then selects a particular composer. "We call them, talk about our general ideas for a piece, and eventually get around to the money issue. Dealing directly with the composer has worked well for us. As I recall, the cost proved an unsolvable problem only once. In that case, we dealt with the composer's agent, and we kept getting letters on fancy, four-color stationery, asking for more money."
Fix's own life as a composer came about as a result of a serious bike accident. A broken right arm idled him as a pianist, so to keep busy he started to write. "I found that being both a pianist and a composer made each activity contribute to the other, a kind of energy flow back and forth, which I really enjoy." Synergy is also a factor with respect to other chamber-music groups active in the community, Fix feels. Asked about the Oakwood Chamber Players and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Fix says, "It's a good thing. The local audience is very supportive, Madison is a good place to live and be active, and all this leads ultimately to the commissioning of more works."
Some of the results will be there to hear at the March 3 concert, which begins at 8:00 p.m. The CD will also be available there. Its live-performance sound should be something like taking a concert home afterwards, which may be an unusual treat for the audience.
Isthmus, February, 1995
Copyright 1995 Jess Anderson