Would you describe yourself as a neo-romantic? Why (not)? Kevin Puts

Kevin Puts
Photo by Christian Steiner

I can’t speak for my contemporaries, but I personally don’t feel that tonality ever really went away. My predecessors had to endure a much more arduous battle for academic legitimacy than I do today, and since contemporary music was almost exclusively connected to the academy, writing the music they cared about meant a very uncomfortable existence for them. These days commissioning happens free of any academic associations most of the time, so a composer doesn’t have to respond to “the weight of modernity” if he or she so chooses. You still encounter major resistance though. You just know if you write anything that could be considered “sentimental”, “melodic”, etc. the critics are going to slam you, so it’s scary every time I have a piece played, from a certain angle. But you know, choosing to write the music that really means something to me always wins out. Tonal chords and scales constitute only one parameter in the process of composing a piece. The trick lies in using these materials that you love but still finding ways to say something fresh and meaningful.

I think the “neo-romantic label” is rather limited, since there are certainly elements of other styles such as minimalism in my music as well. (I love the idea of continually adding layered patterns to create a rich orchestral texture). Sometimes I write representational music though (another no-no) so I suppose this stems from the romantic tradition, though the materials I use are more modern.