Thinking Big: David Del Tredici, a conversation in 13 parts

Radical Tonalism

FRANK J. OTERI: At the time, your return to tonality was an extraordinarily confrontational, radical thing to do.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: I was really the first to be doing it along with George Rochberg who was doing it at the same time. Strangely I didn’t know any of his music. I was completely on my own and felt really weird about it.

FRANK J. OTERI: Because of the reaction of other composers?

DAVID DEL TREDICI: Well, before something like Final Alice, which is very tonal, I was a respected composer. After Final Alice, I was a loved or despised composer. It was very polarizing. I became either the devil or the salvation of music

FRANK J. OTERI: Yet soon after that, the piece that you won the Pulitzer Prize for is unabashedly tonal.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: I don’t know how I won the Pulitzer Prize. Because just recently there was that article with John Adams saying that they just give it to conservatives. It’s terrible, too. I mean whom they’ve often given it to. I don’t know why, in 1980, they gave it to me for such an unabashedly tonal piece. I’d like to know who the judges were.

FRANK J. OTERI: I can find that out for you.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: I’d love to know.

FRANK J. OTERI: So you don’t know.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: No, I never asked. I didn’t know whom to ask.

FRANK J. OTERI: Really?

DAVID DEL TREDICI: It was an unusual choice.

FRANK J. OTERI: I think the Pulitzer has been unfairly maligned through the entire history.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: Yeah, but the recent history is not good. The last 20 years hasn’t been great. Interestingly enough, I, having won a Pulitzer 20 years ago, have never been asked to be on the Pulitzer committee.

FRANK J. OTERI: Oh, that is interesting!

DAVID DEL TREDICI: That is very interesting.

FRANK J. OTERI: You’re certainly entitled to be. That’s part of it.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: But if I were there it would probably upset the vote a little bit. So I was not asked by whatever powers run the Pulitzer committee.