Call for Composers
The Measure of Work: Sounds of Labor in Lowell

Lowell National Historical Park (NHP) in partnership with Mosaic Lowell, funded by a grant from the National Park Foundation through generous support from the Mellon Foundation, is thrilled to announce a call for original musical compositions for The Measure of Work: Sounds of Labor in Lowell, a collection of musical pieces that tell the story of labor across Lowell’s long history. We are looking for multiple composers to contribute to this project. Compositions will be recorded and made publicly available through the National Park Service website and mobile app as well as listening stations installed in the Boott Mills Museum as part of the exhibits. A limited pressing of vinyl records will be sold in the Lowell NHP gift shop. The project may also include future paid opportunities to participate in park programs, such as public talks, live performances, or other forms of community engagement. The recorded pieces will support the interpretive work and educational programs at Lowell National Historical Park.

Project Highlights

$1500 for 3-5 minute score that includes up to 6 instruments. Compositions will also incorporate fixed media (see Instrumentation & Guidelines for more details)
Permanent installation of recorded music in the Boott Mills Museum (annual visitorship of more than 13,000)
National digital exposure on the NPS website and NPS mobile app
Possible future paid opportunities to participate in park programs

Instrumentation & Guidelines

Composers may choose to write for up to six (6) musicians who play the following instruments:

String – violin, viola, cello, double bass, classical guitar, harp
Woodwind – flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, recorder
Brass – trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba, euphonium
Percussion – drums, xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, bongos, maracas, triangle, timpani
Keyboard – piano, toy piano, piano accordion
Voice or Vocalization (with few words)

Fixed Media:
Each composition will also incorporate fixed media, provided to composers, representing the soundscape of work for the thematic era. Composers will be able to choose the sounds most suitable for their piece, in collaboration with park organizers. See era descriptions for possible examples.

Duration:
Scores should be between 3 and 5 minutes in length.

Subject:
The work will be inspired by the forms of labor prevalent during a specific era in Lowell’s history. The project organizers will provide reference materials and host inspiration workshops open to the public to explore historical resources. Composers should expect to incorporate sounds of tools or machinery typical to the timeframe of their composition. While the soundscape elements should not be significantly distorted, composers are given wide latitude to choose the elements and the way they are incorporated into the piece.

Compensation & Use

Compensation of $1500 for the score and parts, as well as potential opportunities for recordings of the selected work. Selected composers must be available to attend the inspiration workshop designated for their era and are strongly encouraged to attend all workshops. Workshops will all be in person, on site at Lowell National Historical Park and will be held between September 2024 and January 2025. Project organizers will determine dates based on composers’ best availability. Composers should be present for the recording with the ensemble to answer questions and discuss the piece with the performers. Unfortunately, travel funding is not available.

The commissioned composers shall grant Lowell National Historical Park the unrestricted right, without royalty, to non-commercial use of a score and recording of the commissioned composition, but shall retain all other rights to the composition, including copyright and royalties not related to the use of the commissioned piece by the Lowell National Historical Park or the National Park Service.

About the Project

The Measure of Work: Sounds of Labor in Lowell aims to tell the story of labor across Lowell’s long history through a collection of original compositions. We are seeking music that incorporates fixed media representing the soundscape of work from different periods, relates the history of labor through instrumentation, and reflects the community that lives and lived here. Composers will further explore the history of their selected era through inspiration workshops, which will be open to the public.

The scope of the project is as follows: The selected composer will produce a newly-composed piece written for an ensemble of no more than 6 parts that incorporates fixed media representing the sounds of work. Composers will be at liberty to choose the fixed media that works best for their piece, in collaboration with project organizers. The finished piece should be approximately 3-5 minutes in length. The piece will be recorded by a professional ensemble The deadline for delivering the final score and parts is May 1, 2025. Please note that adhering to this deadline is crucial to ensure sufficient time for recording and production.

Each composer will be assigned to a thematic era; applicants should indicate their preference(s) in their application.

The thematic eras are as follows:

(Note: soundscape examples are suggestions only; final decisions on fixed media will be determined in conversation with the composer)

Agriculture

Covering the period from the mid-17th century to the founding of Lowell, this era focuses on the early settlements of the area currently known as Lowell by English settlers, who delineated Indian territory and established farms near the Merrimack and Concord Rivers. Soundscape may include sounds of farm animals (chickens, roosters, pigs, horses), wood chopping, and early farming tools.

Early Industry

This era is characterized by the development of industry in the area beginning in 1737. Early uses of waterpower include saw mills, grist mills, and fulling mills. This period also includes the official founding of Lowell and its growth in the textile industry. Soundscape may include sounds of a waterwheel, carding or spinning machine, and power looms. It may also include sounds of the domestic labor of the boardinghouse keepers, a key feature of the Lowell system.

Industrial Era

This era features the innovations in technology and introduction of steam power for the textile mills in the latter half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. During this period, trains replaced canals for the transportation of goods and there were significant labor actions in response to changing working conditions. Soundscape may include sounds of power looms, turbines, train whistle, and steam engine.

Globalization & Diversification

This era covers the mid- to late- twentieth century and focuses on a significant shift in Lowell history, when the forces of globalization moved cloth production overseas and the major textile manufacturing companies permanently closed. While some buildings sat empty or were torn down, others were repurposed for the manufacture of other products, including portable record players, plastic cups, and Wang computers. Many Lowell residents also found work in the healthcare industry. Soundscape may include sounds of demolition, early computing, and hospital machines.

Preservation & Technology

This era is marked by the establishment of Lowell as a National Historical Park in 1978 and the subsequent efforts to preserve historical structures, establish museum spaces, and create interpretive and educational programs for tourists. It brings listeners into the current moment. Soundscape may include sounds of the NPS trolley, the voice of a tour guide or school group, the internet start-up sound, and typing or clicking of a mouse.

What We’re Looking For

We are seeking original and engaging scores from composers of all ages. We welcome artists with a strong point of view, who are looking to share, examine, interrogate or critique unique experiences of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are particularly interested in artists who have ties to the greater Lowell area as well as those who identify as belonging to a community related to Lowell’s immigration history. Applicants must be eligible to receive income in the US.

Selection Process

A panel made up of project organizers and music professionals will review all submissions. Selected composers will be notified by August 20, 2024.

Questions should be directed to the project lead, Dr. Sarah Buchmeier (sbuchmeier@usaconservation.org or sarah_buchmeier@nps.gov).

How to Submit

In order to be considered for selection, please submit the following materials electronically by July 25, 2024:

  • Examples of Recent Compositions: Please submit three (3) recordings of your recent work and a PDF score.
  • Resume: Please include a resume (up to 2 pages) that highlights your musical background and experience as a composer.
  • Statement of Lowell Connection (max 300 words): Please describe how you are personally or professionally connected to Lowell, MA. This can include direct experience as a current or former resident, family ties to the area, or special interest in Lowell’s history.
  • Description of Proposed Piece (max 500 words): Please submit a brief description of the piece you propose to compose for this project. If you are applying for multiple eras, please include a description for each of your eras of interest. Note that you can only be selected for one era.

This description should address the following:

  • Preferred era from the above list and the musical concept and inspiration for the piece.
  • The instrumentation you envision for the piece. (This instrumentation should be within the parameters of an ensemble of up to 6 parts; instrumentation outside of the above list will be considered, provided the composer can furnish the instrument, if necessary)

Submissions can be sent to info@mosaiclowell.org or through the online form at mosaiclowell.org. The application is free. Applicants do not need to remove biographical or personal information on submitted materials.