Saturday, January 29, 2005
It's all right here. . . Right here in my noodle. . .
Jerry asks "at what point did you realize that you had music running around in your head and when did you start writing it down? What was your first piece and how did it come about?"
The first piece I ever wrote was when I was to fulfill a requirement for the Music Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. I must have been about 10 years old. The piece was one page long, and I don't remember it anymore, although I expect my parents still have it somewhere. The interesting thing, though, is that I didn't get interested in composing at that point; it took several more years.
When I was about to start high school, my family moved to Hanover, NH (I would later return to Hanover to finish my undergrad at Dartmouth College), and I made friends with a guy named Alex Reed. One day after school, I was roaming the halls waiting for soccer practice to start (I was a terrible soccer player, incidentally) and I heard piano music coming from one of the classrooms. Alex was in there playing the piano and hanging out with a friend of his. I listened for a while, and then asked him what he was playing -- "nothing," he said, "I was just improvising." I was astonished that (1) improvisation at the piano was possible, and (2) a freshman in high school could do such a thing. I decided that if he could do it, so could I, so I went home that night and started teaching myself how to improvise. I played the piano almost every day for awhile, and started taking piano lessens again, and started writing the kinds of bad songs that angst-filled teenagers write, and Alex and I started showing our work to each other.
I didn't write anything down, and I was too lazy to figure out how to be efficient at writing on manuscript paper, so I didn't do any classical composing until probably a year later when my parents got me one of the earliest versions of the Cakewalk music sequencing program for my birthday (I'm a dedicated Cakewalk user to this day). I have just gone back and listened to some of that music, which still lives on my hard drive, and I can assure you that it has an astounding number of parallel fifths (strictly verboten in traditional harmony, for those who don't know). In the four years of high school I wrote, among other things, a set of 5 or 6 two part inventions, a three-movement piano sonata, a three-movement string quartet, a one movement piano concerto, and a 30 minute mass on the Credo text for chorus and full orchestra (sadly, all but one movement of the mass was lost during the migration from some computer to its successor). None of them were any good, but that's how it goes.
By the end of high school I knew I wanted to be a composer, and I arrived at Brandeis as one of the lucky few who has a major in mind from the get go. Alex has also gone on to be an excellent composer, and is currently ABD in Pitt's composition PhD program.
So that's how it started.