Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music: Composers’ Forums

Nationalism

TOM HALL: Jorge, is there a national style in Mexico, and does your music reflect a national proclivity, tendency? Do you think of your music and the music of your colleagues back home as being very unique and individual? What role does your nationality play in your music?

JORGE C"RDOBA: Nowadays, multiplicity. I was hearing this very Latin American song not long ago, and it was done by Japanese singers.

TOM HALL: Alberto, is there a Venezuelan style that is known throughout the world?

ALBERTO GRAU (via interpreter): When he approaches popular music, musical arrangements, he does not want to be attached to this type of thing. He can be shocked by music, aleatoric music. And the rubber road can be hit musically as well! He’s really thinking as he is sitting here talking to you about how he can hit the audience in the next composition.

TOM HALL: You are in for a good “hit” tonight! I was at the rehearsal last night. Stephen, this was asked me by the editors at ACDA. A bunch of conductors were asked to define the American style of contemporary music. I found it a very threatening question, and so I would like you to answer it for me.

STEPHEN PAULUS: I don’t think there is an American style, but I am going to contradict myself. In America there are people who write very strict twelve-tone music, very strict serial music, and can’t fathom what happened to the rest of us to desert that style, as if that’s what music should be. You will find people writing very popular-influenced things; Michael Torke shows a definite influence of popular rhythms and very harmonic chords. Things by John Adams—a composer whom I forgot to mention in my list of composers whom I like a lot… There is Neo-Romanticism, all these things even veering towards almost new-agey stuff. So there isn’t an American style, and conversely, that probably is the style, a grab bag of all of those things. A piece may start out with 11 notes of a twelve-tone row, and go through that, and suddenly go into some rhythmic thing with a 9th chord that repeats for 20 bars. And in some composers that seems to work. I have been told that there is an American style, that my music sounds so American. I wish I could figure out specifically what they mean by that. But I think some of it—sometimes I think they are referring to a Copland-esque like influence, a chordal vocal thing with open intervals. But that is not their main modus operandi. So I think there is a difference—that there is a certain openness, freshness in a certain way that seems to characterize the American spirit. And we Americans seem to be much more informal than some of our European colleagues. “Hi, I’m Bob.” But wait a minute, I don’t know you that well. Back off. There is a sort of an open, genuine friendliness that can be a little disarming that perhaps comes across in our pieces. There are pieces that could only be written in this country. I will think about it a little more while you are asking someone else a question.