Articles by David Smooke
Many performers want to advocate for the music of their time, work that allows music to live beyond the premiere and to grow through multiple interpretations. Most composers want to work with you in order to make your experience, and that of the audience, as gratifying as possible.
As a composer, one of my goals is to follow the lead of generations of rock stars towards considering musical performance as an inherently theatrical art form.
Musical performance is an inherently theatrical experience. Like all performance art, its paradigms evolved from the religious ritual and community meetings that were conducted publicly on the edge of towns where people gathered, at the crossroads. Part of the enjoyment we take in live renditions of our favorite music derives from the rituals surrounding these shows.
Yesterday, a colleague posed the following question to a group of composers: “How important do you feel analysis of your work is for its performance?” As someone who has given this issue a great deal of thought, I was happy to weigh in with my opinions; I’m hoping NewMusicBox readers might have different takes on this issue and will share their thoughts in the comments.
Composers rarely retire. When we are fortunate enough to live into a ripe dotage, we generally continue to write for as long as our strength allows.
Recently, I’ve been trying to strip all the tricks out of my music. I’ve been attempting to lay bare the essence of my musical expression, to write exactly the sounds that need to be there without layering any of the personal or universal contrivances that I’ve often resorted to in moments of doubt. The resulting compositions feel much more personal to me, and also much more exposed.
My current problem is that my musical explorations haven’t kept pace with the changes in my personal taste, nor with the wealth of interesting music that contemporary composers continue to produce.
Once I finish any new piece, I find myself envying any other work that I hear for that ensemble. In my mind, all the other compositions sound better, fresher, and more interesting.
I’ve come to believe that this ability to conceive and execute big ideas constitutes the trait that separates those people who create life-changing art from the rest of us.
Ironically, the busier I am the more time I’m able to find to complete my own work and to enjoy the company of others.