Viewpoint

Material Witness

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.

My (       ) Generation

I have regular contact with many older composers, and increasingly many younger ones, but apart from a few close composer friends from my student days I seem to have very few peers of my own generation. I was born in 1966 and that puts me in the era of “Generation X”.

Commissioning Rushes

A large-scale work for the bassoon by a well-known composer would not only be a giant step for the bassoon community, but it would also create a greater awareness of our instrument in the new music community.

Remembering Elliott Carter (1908-2012)

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.

Schizophrenic Composer/Performer

I realized I would not be able to learn what I wrote, and so I moved on to revising. Was this piece so difficult that saxophonists would not be able to learn it accurately? Or was I, as the performer, not capable of achieving the composer’s vision?

What’s a Musician Worth?

We musicians get a lot of conflicting information about what kind of compensation our work deserves. Too often, the message is that if you’re in it for the money, something’s probably wrong with you.

Cage = 100: Walking Along Paths the Outcome of Which I Didn’t Know…

Five days after the death of colleague and friend John Cage, I produced and hosted a two-hour tribute broadcast on the New York City radio station WBAI-FM. Only a few of the many, many friends who were also close to him could be invited and the emotions of the moment were still raw. Now, all this time later, it’s hard to believe he’s no longer with us.

Cage = 100: Provenance and Process—100 Waltzes for John Cage

Sometimes, the thoughtful and respectful recreation of a work is the deepest form respect. Other times, taking that work, using it as a diving board to bounce on and leap from, and landing in a cannonball to splash the snoozing pool-side adults is a much more fitting nod. I think Cage would prefer the latter.

Making The Face

Producing my opera The Face outside of the world of traditional opera companies has been both challenging and freeing. Major companies have a significant infrastructure and financial resources, but they also tend to focus on a full season of standard favorites. A new music ensemble or small independent production company can dream and create independently.

Remembering Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012)

When Marvin Hamlisch was inventing music, his focus and concentration were extraordinary. He would look at the words I had brought in for 30 or 40 seconds and hear something in his head. His hands would then take over. After that initial “idea” phase in the composing, there seemed to be no time-lag between his continued musical impulses and his ability to simply play them.