Monday, October 14, 2013
So I just had a wonderful time in Cincinnati last week. Why was it wonderful? Well........my Violin Concerto was just World Premiered there! Beautifully performed in Memorial Hall by the dynamic Violinist Tatiana Berman along with the Constella Festival Chamber Ensemble, all under the baton of the awesome Maestro, Paavo Järvi. Yep, it was pretty cool. An enthusiastic audience, great reviews, the works! Did it I have a great time or what?!
So I get back home to New York, still in euphoria from my premiere. But now I have to try and figure out how to get this piece noticed by an even bigger audience. This is a real burden. Yes, the premiere in Cincinnati was a success, but it was only a local success. It has yet to be heard by the rest of the world. And I'm not just talking about the Classical world. Every time I hear a work I love, I have this unquenchable desire to present this music to people who have no idea of it's existence. Most notably, the American pop culture. Yet, for some reason, there's this feeling of impotence in our ability to make that happen.
Why is this the case? There are probably many answers to this question, but I have a big one for you: The classical world is too arrogant and the pop culture is too ignorant! Yes, when it boils down to it, that's the bottom line. I don't care what anybody says.
The powers that be in the classical world preach mainly to it's own choir. The already converted. It seems that they have no idea that there's a bigger world out there to show this wonderful music to. They're afraid that it won't be understood by the rest of the world and therefore, not worth the effort to put it out there. And whenever I meet someone who's not a classical musician (aka pop culture), usually they are amazed that there are people like me who are still alive and doing this sort of thing. This is followed by comments along the line of: "I really appreciate what you do. ", "You must be really smart.", or the cringing, "I just don't know enough about it in order to listen to it."
NEWS FLASH,TO BOTH OF YOU CULTURES:
Music is not meant to be understood!! Only to be heard!! And if, for some reason, you don't "get it", maybe it's not your fault. Maybe............the composer just sucks! So, no matter how simple or how complex the music is, we composers have just one purpose, to WOW an audience! Every single musical genre on Earth has that goal. Even this one!
As the years go by, more and more, I tend to agree with my good friend and composer Gene Pritsker with regard to his philosophy of the different genres of music. That all these terms (classical, pop, jazz, etc) should be boiled down to just one: Music of the Western Tradition. I've always admired this concept of Gene's, but I never fully agreed. It seems to imply a kind of musical anarchy. Without any guidelines or ability to put into words the kind of music some of us are specifically involved with. And yet, maybe that's not such a bad thing these days. It is, after all, more about the music itself and not as much about where it comes from. Maybe it's not that necessary to put it into words. Maybe, as Duke Ellington famously said: "If it sounds good, it is good.". I'll just have to get back to you on that one.
In the meantime, for you people who are interested, but not sure about the music I'm talking about, here are a few pieces I recommend that you google:
John Adams: Shaker Loops
James Macmillan: The Confession of Isobel Gowdie
Wojciech Kilar: Orawa
Steve Reich: Cello Counterpoint
Jennifer Higdon: Blue Cathedral
Colin Matthews: Forth Sonata
Erkki- Sven Tüür: Exodus
Peter Schickele: Sextet
Carla Bley: Birds of Paradise
Kevin Puts: Silent Night
There are too many more to mention of course, but I think these works are great to start with. They're all just as great to listen to as any pop song. Go for it! You've got nothing to lose. And.......... OK.....I guess I should promote myself a little.
Charles Coleman: Streetscape
And I think my Violin Concerto is pretty good too. I can't wait for you to hear it. :)
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Of the many problems composers have to deal with when it comes to their creative endeavors, one of the more interesting issues is whether or not they have a "distinctive sound" in their compositions. Is this "distinctiveness" achieved through the style or genre that a composer chooses? Or maybe, it could be some kind of innate sound that happens completely by accident through the composer's rhythmic and harmonic habits that he or she has worked with for years, sub-consciously?
The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara once stated that the composer finds his materials rather than creates them. It's as if the composition existed in another place before the composer brings it out on paper. The distinctive sound has already been pre-determined in some way. Whereas the American composer John Adams has often said that when he is in the middle of composing something, there are occasions when he sees himself about write certain material that he may have used more or less in a previous work of his own. He then makes a conscious decision on whether he should come up with something else, or just go with it. Therefore, the distinctive sound can be determined by the circumstances at the time of composition.
There is a great deal of merit with either of these theories. Both Rautavaara and Adams are geniuses in their own right. But this issue also makes me think of another of one my favorite artists: The british composer, Arnold Bax.
Although Bax was a successful composer in his lifetime, the last few years for him were somewhat of a burden. All his life, Bax wrote roughly in the same kind of style. Light attitude, yet with a passion and lyricism merged with a sense of British charm and Irish tinge. Up until his death in 1953, when serial music was at it's most destructive, Bax was often chastised for his somewhat lighter color, which for many listeners, didn't seem very relevant during the mid 20th century, a time when various wars had caused the most damage at that point.
For me, one of the great elements in the music of Bax is his use of subtly. He seems to whisper his emotions through music rather than blow it up in ones face. Most other composers at the time prefered to vent their fustrations musically in a loud and blunt manner with a dissonance that accentuated their rage. But Bax was fully aware of the emotions of hardship in survival. So he makes a vague yet important statement in his works so that the listener can feel his emotional state in a gradual way rather than with the “in your face” attitude.
One should note that Bax himself lived through the horrors of war like everyone else. In particular, the uprising in Ireland and the two World Wars where he lost many close friends. If you were to listen to certain pieces he wrote like The Garden of Fand, Tintagel and most of the 7 Symphonies, one cannot deny that Arnold Bax has a desperate need to metaphorically smile amidst numerous tragedies he lived through during this time. He certainly has a distinctive voice in the works he created, whether they be guided by tradition or the obscure world he lived through, or maybe a combination of the two. In short, you know him when you hear him.
The issue of the distinctive sound will continue to be debated among composers time and time and again. But it is clear to me that the choice of style is merely one of many tools within the mix of an even bigger picture.