Some sons go camping or on a fishing trip with their fathers when they know that time is winding down. I wanted to create a new musical work with my dad. At first he insisted he was too old to get involved. Just hours after my dad left the planet, I learned that Ansel Adams: America had received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition. This felt like my dad was winking at me, grinning and giving me a congratulatory hug from the other side.
One of the most important tools for a composer to develop is an intuition about material, about its possibilities for manipulation and development. But now that I’ve had enough practice turning off that intuition, I can see and hear how it’s not necessarily the material, or even the choice of material, that makes or breaks a piece of music.
Elliott has been a wonderful example of the composer as a knowledgeable, educated person with a broad-based understanding of things. That a composer we respected as a leader would come to a workshop with young students, ask questions that told us what he didn’t know, and take notes, was very impressive. My guess is that at that time in his career, he had achieved a level of self-confidence and comfort with what he was doing musically that allowed him to display without embarrassment what he didn’t know.
I read a lot of commentary about the modern music business, and I’m guessing you do, too. It drives me slightly crazy. Here are ten things I wish people said more often. They don’t represent a blueprint for success or a complete explanation of what’s happening, but I hope they give you a clearer idea of what’s going on and what you might do about it. Here goes…
Every group of people has a different approach to the musical, personal, and organizational challenges of running an ensemble. How does the Spektral Quartet do what they do–namely, learn enormous piles of music and give consistently excellent performances, all while apparently retaining their sanity and continuing to actually like each other?
“Listy” thinking—the notion that anything as elemental and sloppily chaotic as music (or any art, for that matter) can withstand ordering, this-or-that-ing—can be, at best, problematic. The list can take the place of the work much like ideas of the people involved can be easily replaced by received notions. And that represents a danger because when something complicated is easily and quickly understood, the chances are that you are doing something wrong.