The Ballad of the AARP Composer
One of the things I’m looking forward to most about getting older (actually, one of the only things I’m looking forward to) is the right—usually conferred around retirement age, but sometimes obtained as early as 50—to be as intellectually and creatively lazy as possible. Precedents abound; I’ve been careful to observe how these auspicious composers stay stodgy. Here’s a tentative outline of the steps I’ll take to make the least of my twilight years:
- I will continue to write the same kind of music I wrote when I experienced my first critical success—my “breakthrough,” if you will—until death. If it worked in 2010, why won’t it work in 2040? 2060? Years of tepid reactions to my music will no doubt convince me that listeners are stupid cattle to be pitied, and if you think they’ll be smarter 30 years from now, you can think again. Speaking of ignorance…
- I will take the position—implicitly, if not explicitly—that all composers younger than my friends and I are careless dilettantes with no regard for the craft of composition. Should I be thrust into some situation—master class, lecture, etc.—where dealing with these urchins is inescapable, I will try my best to be patient, but I can’t be held responsible for crushing their overwrought little dreams like so much sculpted marzipan.
- I will be fanatical in my espousal of the music technology that prevailed during my glory days and contemptuously dismissive (with a side of weltschmerz) of any and all more recent technologies. Despite mountains of prima facie evidence to the contrary, including actually seeing some of these new technologies in action, I will deny their validity at every opportunity. And don’t you dare say that I’m just too old to understand this newfangled machinery. I was writing Max patches and playing with Lemurs when you were no more than a glimmer in your father’s eye.
- When presented with a new perspective on music, I will reject it flatly, as one might reject a dessert menu. This will not, strictly speaking, be my fault; decades of linguistic conditioning will prevent me from exercising the necessary epistemological muscles to comprehend this foreign way of thinking. Paradoxically, I will die with the absolute certainty that I have mastered the art of writing music, but I will know less about it than I do now.
Join me, won’t you, on this 40-year journey to curmudgeonhood. We can hang out at a diner and always order the same thing. No dessert, though.