For Entrants
Is there an entry fee?
No. There never has been, and there never will be an entry fee for Iron Composer. Entry fees are often used to finance the competition itself, and that’s simply unfair. More importantly, we recognize how hard it is to be a composer, and the last thing any composer needs is an additional expense.

Why don’t you want a recording of my piece?
We prefer to review a score on its merits. Scores are more efficient for the reviewers and fairer to the composers than recordings which vary too widely in quality to be reliable. The only recordings we review are tape parts for electroacoustic works.

Why do you need my bio?
After selecting a group of qualified composers based on submitted scores, bios are used to help make the final decisions about whom to invite. We strive for stylistic, biographical, and geographical diversity whenever possible. Imagine how desultory a concert of five composers from the same city who write in the same style would be!

Is there an instrumentation preference for the submitted score?
No. You should submit the score that represents you best as a composer.

Can I submit an electroacoustic work?
Yes. Please submit the tape part along with your score. If your piece uses a MaxMSP patch that is not described in the score, please summarize what it does.

For Finalists
Do the parts need to be finished within the 5-hour writing period?
Yes. Scores and parts should be generated during the writing period. It is possible to make minor adjustments to parts and scores during the printing period, if necessary. However, there is simply not enough time to make parts look pristine at Iron Composer, and the performers understand that.

Who will be performing my piece?
Surprisingly, this question is asked multiple times every year despite the fact that it is clearly unanswerable. The performers’ identities can only be revealed on the day of the competition.

Is there a length requirement for my piece?
No. Most finalists compose works that last two or three minutes. A six-minute piece would be very long for Iron Composer. That is not due to any requirement on our part. It is just the way most pieces take shape, with only five hours of composition time and 30 minutes of rehearsal. The length of the piece is entirely up to you as the composer.

Will I get a recording of my piece?

Can I sell merchandise or plug a project?
Absolutely. The contest staff coordinates with every finalist on their promotional needs.

How can I get from the airport to where I need to be?
We will pick you up from the airport. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) is less than 4 miles from the epicenter of Iron Composer. We will coordinate with each finalist as they finalize their travel plans.

Where will I stay?
You will be paired with a local host while you are in town for the competition. Hosts usually live within walking distance of the competition.

Where can I eat during the writing period?
We bring lunch to you in the writing room. Boxed lunches are provided by Cafe Ah-Roma.

For the Audience

What is the precedent for Iron Composer?
Quick composition is an ancient practice. Organists are still trained in the art of improvising long forms. Iron Composer can be traced back to countless episodes like Bach’s visit to Potsdam where Frederick the Great challenged him to improvise a three-part fugue on an assigned theme. When Bach easily executed the task, Frederick asked for a six-part fugue, which was the genesis of The Musical Offering.

What can be a secret ingredient?
Anything: a chord progression, a musical form, a film clip, a story, vanilla fudge. You can suggest a secret ingredient by email or Facebook!

How do the composers write music so quickly?
The vast majority of our finalists have used computers to notate their music. Once they have written their score on the computer, they can automatically generate individual parts for the performers.