Standing on the Corner

When the weather turns warm here in New York City, you know one thing is for certain: ‘Tis the season for construction workers’ pervy stares. I know it sounds so cliché, but seriously, any reasonably attractive woman can’t go more than a block before being molested by elevator eyes, followed by some lame yammering uttered under the breath. I see the same scenario so repeatedly, I often wonder if these guys physically exhaust themselves by drooling at passersby—there really is a seemingly endless supply of hot women in this town, no joke. Maybe these guys are contractually obligated by their labor unions to behave this way.

All of which I mention because modern composition fans often treat music in much the same way. When audiences sit down in a concert hall to listen, they scrutinize, analyze, and sometimes feel euphoric while doing so. As for us composers, however, we’d totally creep out our friends if we actually admitted to them how much time we spend simply fantasizing about music—which is to say all the damn time. Composing music is like creating a fictional character, we have to fully realize each toenail and eyelash if our goal is to generate something convincing. The more distinctive and gracious personality traits we give to our creations, the more people are going to want to hangout around them.

On top of engaging listeners, our music is forced to interface, in some way or another, with canonical music history if it’s to gain any respect from our field’s cognoscenti. So if you’re lucky enough to create a piece of music with the sex appeal to pull off a skimpy little dress and cha-cha heels, it must also posses the wherewithal to fend off those chauvinist pigs at the construction site, or at least learn to ignore all the catcalls and just keep on walking with its head up.

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