Approaching the end of a piece’s composition is always an exciting feeling for me. For one thing, it means that I’m almost ready to put it to rest. But it also means that, so long as I’ve done my job well in the earlier part of the piece, I’ve accrued credibility with the listener that I am now free to spend. I realize that it sounds sort of presentational and almost charlatanesque to speak in these terms about new music, but I find it immensely satisfying to take a piece in a strange, unexpected direction once the audience’s cooperation has been secured—to build a foundation of trust at the beginning and then take risks toward the end. This seduction is a potential, I think, no matter the piece’s idiom (see, for instance, the Hammerklavier sonata and Xenakis’s Knephas). The further into the piece we are, the less sense we can make.
It raises a larger question, though: If we’re discussing music in terms of the extent to which it makes sense, are we ignoring aesthetic categories rendered inaccessible by the pursuit of rationality? I find Cage’s number pieces quite compelling, but although they were produced by a completely self-consistent system, I don’t think I’ll provoke an avalanche of contention (although one never knows) by submitting that they tend not to evidence a teleological experiential shape. There is something alluring about nonsense, and even though I usually appreciate it most in tension with sense, there are plenty of different-thinking composers who write high-integrity music. Thomas DeLio, whose music is almost singlemindedly concerned with the abolition of connection between musical moments, comes immediately to mind.
When we speak about musical pluralism, we’re typically talking about stylistic pluralism, a kaleidoscoping of conventions from various preexisting literatures. What appeals to me, however, is dimensional pluralism—music that strives to reconcile the immanent with the rhetorical, the generative with the intuitive, and perhaps even the sensible with the nonsensical.