Discrimination against someone of the “wrong” color, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation is generally frowned upon in modern society. But progress is still needed in the area of discrimination on the basis of a person’s age and ageism is very much alive in the emerging composer arena. In short, once you get to a certain age, you’re considered too old to tango.
We all know what is meant when the accusation of academicism is lobbed: that person (or their line of thinking) is cloistered, out of touch, has little bearing on the real world. But really, there is no “real world” and no “general public.” They are ghosts we chase or sticks with which we composers use to beat ourselves up.
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.