Friday, March 18, 2005
What is hard in the context of new music
I don’t think there is an interpretive style/lineage for the performance of my work exactly. My music needs musicality, curiosity and sufficient preparation for its best performance. And since I am a western composer that usually means something that Mozart or Liszt would have enjoyed also. For me musicality means the ability to make a phrase interesting using a combination of subtle dynamics/rhythm. These things are not necessary to notate down to the last 32nd rest breath. When I used to play Mozart Sonatas the scores were not marked with crescendos and decrescendos ‘everywhichwhere’. They were assumed. They are taught. Once that sense of how to play musically becomes a part of a performer, they can play my music quite well, if they are interested in it and they practice.
Certainly I have had performance of my works that were poorly prepared. For some reason performers often think that my music is easy, so they spend their main rehearsal time on the pieces about which they are most worried. But like any music that has tonal/modal clarity the errors are so much more noticeable than they might be in 12-tone music, for example.
I have never withdrawn authorization to perform my music at the time of hearing a dress rehearsal. We used to say that a poor dress rehearsal meant a beautiful performance. Sometimes that does work out that way and sometimes it just means 15 minutes of rehearsal was not enough! I tend to err on the side of optimism as a composer. When I was more of a performer, I was much more of a pessimist and simply would not perform something I had not spent months preparing.
The most important node of communication for me is the conductor for an orchestra/chorus or the performer(s) for solo and chamber music. There is no way for me to reach the audience without going through the performers. Performers of living composers’ works have the opportunity to get feedback from the composers by simply asking. It is interesting to me that they often do not take advantage of it. Perhaps they want to make their own interpretation without influence. Perhaps they are afraid to ask for a hearing. Perhaps they are challenging the composer to make sure they put all their wishes onto the paper. I don’t know, but I do think that conductors/performers/composers need to work as collaborators to get the most desirable outcome.