Last night, our guest reminded me of the powerful importance of the performer in our art. It mattered not to me that he was playing music of the past—this was performance of such an intense and effortless nature that I forgot about the music and the master who wrote it.
My inbox has begin to swell with recommendation letter requests from students applying to the graduate programs that they hope will speed them along towards a career. At the same time, I came across two articles whose intentions were specifically to throw some cold water on those idealistic goals.
“Why would you write anything for contrabass trombone?” I knew that such a decision on my part–to take time to create a work of art for such a rare instrument–flew in the face of today’s composer pragmatism that encourages writing for standard ensembles.
Coming up with the idea for a new piece isn’t hard. The gaping chasm that separates the “idea” of the piece from the point where the composer has enough material that finishing the piece feels natural: that is the real challenge.
Later today, I will have reached 40. It’s a number I’ve been looking forward to for quite a long time. No, if you are wondering, today is not my birthday. Later today (this first Friday of November) I will be conducting my fortieth interview with a composer since I began this adventure almost 18 months ago.
Yesterday a competition was announced that not only takes the delicate cost/gain balance of such events into account for the composers potentially taking part, but demonstrates a well thought-out holistic concept that could be considered as a model for others to follow.
Because composition education has created a feedback loop; there is an overriding perception by most musicians and non-musicians that composition is something that only a very few extremely talented individuals can and should pursue, and that perception creates a self-fulfilling prophecy through a lack of composition education at the pre-college level.
One issue that has been nagging me for quite some time: Why aren’t there more amateur composers? Or, to look at the question from a slightly different angle, why does it seem that so few people pursue the art of writing concert music, not as a vocation, but simply as a part of their lives?
While instructors, other students, performers, and musical inspirations can all have a strong influence on a young composer, there is an important ingredient to the successful evolution of a composer that is many times overlooked—their parents.
There are few topics that I cover in my interviews with composers in which I feel the need to “be careful.” I’ve never worried about a reaction to an inquiry about one’s own creative process, history and background, or teaching philosophy. There is one topic, however, that I do feel the need to tread lightly around, and that is the concept of commissions. There are several reasons to be cautious when discussing commissions with a composer, not the least of which is that it is the closest you are going to get to discussing their own personal finances.