It’s Not About Me (It’s Never About Me)
Over the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time on the short side of the microphone, being interviewed by various parties about an upcoming concert. While I’m thrilled that some excitement is building, I’m also wrung out from the process of trying to appear quotable, trying to boil down years of thought into pithy statements, trying to talk about ephemeral and experimental art in a way that can be understood by anyone.
When I was younger, I used to love talking about my music. I knew the exact reason why every note was where it was in all my scores and would take opportunities to tell people whether or not they asked or cared. Now, I’ve composed a lot of music. Honestly, at times I can barely remember what pieces I’ve composed, much less what I was thinking while I wrote them. And as I become better at composing, I say more in the piece itself, leaving less to be explained verbally.
Unfortunately, this makes me a pretty terrible salesperson for my music. And I find the whole process of trying to convince people to listen to my music to be demoralizing at best, demeaning at worst. I tend to think that if people are interested, they’ll look into it. And if they’re not interested, they won’t give it a fair listen anyway. I have plenty of friends who have never listened to my music, and that’s fine with me.
The great exceptions to the rule—when I am ready to sell and sell hard—are when the moments arrive when I can expound on interesting projects or when I can help others fill their needs. I have no problem explaining the myriad reasons why the other people involved in a concert are amazing and worthy of high praise. And I love being asked for recommendations for musicians, for teachers, for job openings, for listening. I believe strongly in my ability to pair people with the things they seek. I advocate easily and often for my students and my peers. But I’d really rather not talk about my own things.
And yet, I’m finding myself spending a lot of time lately talking about myself. As you might have noticed, here on NewMusicBox, I write weekly about my experiences. And this Thursday I’m launching a new music ensemble—League of the Unsound Sound (LotUS)—with a concert at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania.
LotUS is an incredibly exciting project, about which I will be talking over the weeks and months ahead. Our first season also will include concerts on the Ethos New Music Society series at SUNY Fredonia (February 19), at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (March 19), and at the Windup Space in Baltimore (March 20).
This Thursday’s concert—for two pianos, percussion, and toy piano—will include the American premiere of Of Risk and Memory, a two-piano piece by Arlene Sierra, alongside works by John Cage, Thierry de Mey, Peter Garland, Georges Aperghis, Huang Ruo, and myself. In addition to the composed works, I will improvise on toy piano alongside master percussionist Tim Feeney. I have designed the concert in hopes that it will create an immersive theatric experience in which the visual element will help to support the sonic.
This is the sort of project that I can get behind, that I can sell to all who ask. And so I was very happy to be able to talk about LotUS with so many people. But now the concert is in a few days and I’m ready to stop talking and to make some music.