Do you still identify yourself as an American composer? Arnold Dreyblatt



As of summer 2002, I have spent nearly 20 of my 49 years abroad, or, to put it another way, two-thirds of my professional life. While Europe has probably offered me creative opportunities that I might not have found in the States, I continue to see my work as American in style and in form, and European critics have generally agreed.

I have often found it surprising that those Europeans starting out from a similar standpoint as my own, that is, having an eclectic non-conservatory background, would most often find the doors closed to “New Music” in Europe and would end up in somewhere in “free jazz“, pop or most recently, in the electronic club scene. Furthermore, many doors were open to me as an American composer from New York, which would have been closed to a European of similar background, partly out of a keen interest in the New York musical scene from which I came in the seventies.

Even after such a long period based mostly in Berlin, there are very few composers of my generation in Europe who have influence me in my work. I find myself, even after so many years abroad, still with my ears tuned to developments in New Music in the States, with the exception of some recent activities in the European electronic scene (which however sits outside the common definitions of contemporary composition). I have not found this to be the case in the visual arts, an area which I have been intensively involved as a parallel activity to my work in music.

On the other hand, I have been strongly influenced in other ways by this long intensive exposure to European culture, and by the experience of living outside my own. It is probably ironic, that at this point in time I’m more well-known as a composer in the States, while in Europe I am more well-known as a visual and performance artist.