Articles by Dan Visconti
Some recent comments on these pages regarding the future of streaming and downloadable music have reminded me how difficult it can be for composers to convince normal, right-thinking people that their work deserves payment.
I routinely receive emails (often from younger or beginning composers) asking me what equipment I use for such-and-such, and while some pieces of equipment are more necessary than others I always write back trying to find out what that composer has available, now. Waiting until we have the “right” equipment to start can be a form of procrastination and a missed opportunity to discover our own resourcefulness.
This might be one of the meanings of Picasso’s famous utterance, that “Art is a lie that leads to the Truth”—that in order to express the essential we must commit occasional (or even very grave) sins against our primary perceptions; or rather, we must (momentarily) abandon the confines of consensus reality in order to uncover the deeper reality underneath.
The Glimmerglass Festival in bucolic Cooperstown, New York is about the only place I can think of where one can kayak in to a performance of contemporary opera—or where people are actually encouraged to do so! Newly-appointed Glimmerglass Artistic Director Francesca Zambello has said in an interview that she’d even welcome anyone who arrives in a bathing suit if they swam here to see an opera.
When we practice an instrument or compose a new work, we are drawing upon hundreds of years of musical and technical knowledge, and through interfacing with our own unique personalities we transform that knowledge into something novel passed on to future generations; therefore, “my” music is really something like 90% outsourced, with my own contributions comprising only a sliver of the research, experimentation, and notational decisions necessary for “my” piece’s completion.
Another 4th of July spent in Washington, D.C. always makes me acutely aware of patriotic gestures, and musically there has never been a shortage of American patriotic music, from marches and anthems to labor-leaning tunes by some of the 20th century’s most influential composers.
The received wisdom of classical performance practice is simply one way among many, yet it is through direct exploration of sound (and apprehension of what kinds of sound excites and moves us) that performance practices came to be in the first place. While I have very great respect for those who take similar delight in the exploration of classical technique, I’m fortunate that my own false starts eventually led me back to the elements with which I formed my earliest musical bonds.
I was recently converting some old scores into PDF files for archiving when I came across the first large-scale piece that I haven’t disowned. I hadn’t thought about the piece for some time, and with the intervention of time the distance I’d traversed in about seven years became apparent. I’m always hopping from piece to piece more or less sequentially, and the incremental changes and forgotten battles of the day can often obscure the larger patterns of change.
On the notepad I use to jot down ideas for upcoming NewMusicBox posts, there has been one important but perhaps less-than-riveting subject I have passed up for almost a year now: the difference between rewrites and edits, and the incredible usefulness of making both a part of one’s revising/honing process.
Speaking as someone who enjoys cooking as well as composing, I wanted to take a moment to detail how my efforts in the kitchen help me relate to my efforts in the studio. After spending most of the last year living away from home, I’m thrilled to be home with a working oven and some familiar kitchen utensils. So what can a composer learn from the experience of baking a pie?