Imagine a World

Sometimes I’ve found that focusing obsessively on the details can also be a legitimate path towards grasping the whole if I think of those details in a cumulative, global way, rather than as they pertain to particular nooks and crannies of the composition.

Composing Like a Painter

I kept destroying sections of the piece and then building something new in its place, sometimes “painting over” sections with other layers; just as one might say “there needs to be more orange over in this corner of the canvas,” I listened to each successive version of the composition in my head and adjusted it accordingly.

Next Time, Request a Tonmeister

There is a German word for which there is no easy English translation, tonmeister, that is loosely equivalent to “recording engineer” or maybe “producer”; maybe “sound director” would be the best translation, a lead engineer who is equally at home recording, mixing, rehearsing, and following a score.


While it’s natural on some level to perhaps edit the past to be more in line with the present, I don’t believe this kind of thinking has played very much of a role in my decision to keep some works in circulation and not others.

Breaking Free of the Copy Shop

Composers need a lot of things in order to be successful, including good ears for sound, plentiful performance opportunities, and above all imagination; but we also need stuff and lots of it, and those supplies can be pretty expensive.

Music Librarians: the Composer’s Best Friend?

At the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association conference last week in D.C., attendees shared with me the top five ways that composers shoot themselves in the foot in rehearsal and render their otherwise excellent music unpalatable to artistic staff.

The Concert Talk Paradigm

I’ve rarely found that any analysis given before the complete performance of a piece has the effect of piquing my interest to hear the subsequent performance.

The Keyboard in My Life

When I’m writing music for an instrument that isn’t a piano, I don’t want to get seduced into writing piano music.

High Anxiety

Any fellow or guest of the American Academy in Berlin will quickly realize that there is one dreaded social event with which are going to become pretty well acquainted: the Formal Seated Dinner.

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