Articles by David Smooke
The main reason to create a musical score is to convey our compositional ideas to other performing musicians. Of course, this postulation leads to the next question: What do we consider our compositional ideas?
Patrons who want to hear excellent music in their communities who begin with limited monetary resources and impressive supplies of willpower, vision, and energy realize that they must act in order to preserve their favored art. While many people despair in the face of this rapidly changing paradigm, others take action. One of the most creative responses to these shifts in the musical landscape has been a renewed interest in house concerts and salon series.
I’ve become intrigued by this divide between the will of the performer towards beautiful tone and of the composer towards expressive variety. Certainly these two goals can coexist and even can enhance each other in order to create music that approaches the sublime; however, at times they appear incompatible.
Sometimes as I compose, I find myself turning back to the same creative solutions that worked in the past. No matter how different various projects may be, I can be tempted to impose the artistic tics that have embedded themselves deeply within my subconscious. Whether I’m working on the musical equivalent of a tote bag, a greeting card, or even a bird sculpture, I find myself putting a bird on it.
Music composition remains an essentially oxymoronic art form—it is inherently both collaborative and soloistic. Without an individual vision our music remains uninspiring, but without the assistance of others our music remains inanimate.
Another troubling aspect of the genius myth is that in application it invariably buttresses the status quo. In a world in which the default “composer” is white and male and in which other flavors of artists find their works shunted into sub-categories, we tend to reserve the center of the canon for those who most closely resemble the creators of the past.
We love the idea of the genius, of the Promethean figure descended from on high to bring knowledge to humanity. We embrace this notion because on the one hand it allows us to imagine ourselves as being among the limited numbers of initiates who can be trusted with the arcana, while on the other hand simultaneously absolving us of our responsibility in the matter—it’s not our fault that we can’t follow the meaning behind the music because we can’t all be geniuses.
For me, this year’s time change and move towards spring have elicited a refreshing renewal of creative energy. I’m working towards the completion of projects whose deadlines quite recently had appeared menacingly improbable.
Last week, the website “Vida: Women in Literature” published their 2011 count. This series of pie charts visualizes the ratio of female to male representatives in various categories—including published fiction, book reviewers, authors reviewed—at some of the most prestigious periodicals in the fiction world. Writers from all walks of life quickly condemned the ratios, and many of the editors promised to look into improving the equality of gender representation within their pages. The main thing that struck me about these numbers is this: If they had been generated by concert presenting organizations they would have seemed exceptionally progressive.
It’s a difficult issue: whether Golijov’s creative sins reach the level of artistic crimes. Of course, I’m not accusing Golijov of an actual crime. Indeed, it appears that he very careful assured himself of operating within the letter of the law, including crafting an agreement with Ward-Bergeman that remains satisfactory to both parties. Still, I maintain that Golijov’s approach to Sidereus was wrong and that the new music community should continue to pressure him to openly address the situation.