Is the idea of government support for the arts un-American? On the contrary. It is as American as apple pie. In the early years of the republic, were our political leaders rubes when it came to music and other arts? Look again. Our iconic founding fathers Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and many of our subsequent presidents had signal public relationships to music and the arts.
A composer needs to have a distinct voice and to be able to use it, for better and worse. Because it’s all he or she’s got—if they’ve got anything at all.
There has always been a divide among intellectuals between those who have a taste for music and those who don’t.
The minstrel show was the great-grand-daddy of modern American show business: the variety aspect of vaudeville, the dance steps of tap, and even the setup and punchlines lines of stand-up comedy, all grew directly out of this cultural rape of a people.
Much has been written on the alleged obsoleteness of the concert
hall in the age of iPod, or its socio-political tendentiousness, or its
aesthetic this-or-that-ness, etc., etc. Nobody seems to have addressed
the elephant in the room: The concert hall is itself a fine musical
instrument-an instrument that is an indissoluble constituent of the
There are two perpendicular paths for new operas to get up and running today—the trickle-down path versus the grass-roots path: an opera either gets commissioned by a high-mainline institution and given the deluxe treatment in a relative jiffy; or it longanimously evolves from a private magnificent obsession, through a protracted gestation in the hinterlands, to an odds-defying coup with the media gatekeepers.
The fact remains that the single most career-making figure for any new composer is an orchestra conductor who decides to champion him.
The stronger your ear, the more liberated your musical imagination. That’s how Beethoven could compose after deafness. His ear—outer, and then inner—was spectacular.
Having a good ear is the quintessence of a composer’s gift; but what constitutes a good ear for a composer?