Iron Composer: An Instant Composition Contest

Iron Composer is an instant composition contest.

Five composers are invited to compete in person. On the morning of the event, the finalists are assigned an instrumentation and a secret musical ingredient. They have just five hours to write a piece of music that incorporates those two elements. Their work is then performed and judged on a public concert that same evening.

ANALOG arts established Iron Composer in 2007. In 2009, they relocated the contest from Omaha to Cleveland, where it has been hosted by Baldwin-Wallace College ever since. WCLV 104.9 FM broadcasts every competition live to its broad audience in Northeast Ohio, and people from around the world can tune into the simulcast on

The original idea for Iron Composer came from Lucky Mosko’s composition workshops at CalArts where composers were just as likely to get a bag of carrots as a secret musical ingredient as they were a motif.

Instrumentation: Viola, cello, double bass
Ingredient: Sound map of downtown Cleveland
Instrumentation: Double bell trumpet, horn, trombone
Ingredient: Audience participation
Instrumentation: Prepared piano, tuba, clarinet
Ingredient: Eight seconds of silence
Instrumentation: Organ (Austin, 1914)
Ingredient: Regina music box
Instrumentation: Flute, and cello
Ingredient: A broad assortment of sticks and stones
Instrumentation: 2 pianos, 2 trumpets, 5 toms/1 bass drum
Ingredient: “Little Red Riding Hood” (Grimm version)
Instrumentation: Piano trio
Ingredient: Impression, Sunrise (Monet)
Instrumentation: Wind quintet
Ingredient: The Jetsons motif (Hoyt Curtin)