This excerpt from Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture was in a recent New Yorker issue. I’ve long envied writers the existence of New Yorker and a few other periodicals, in which a wide public audience has an opportunity to contemplate the artistic and professional musings of some of the most interesting practitioners of their craft. I wished there could be a public forum in which composers would regularly share their deepest convictions, experiences and hopes with such honesty and self-awareness. Can you imagine New Yorker publishing a speech by a major composer? I can’t.
That’s why I welcomed the arrival of blogs a few years ago, quickly developing an addiction to Kyle Gann’s, in which someone was finally opening a window to the composer’s daily world – the aspirations and frustrations of devoting a life to putting notes together.
Kyle’s blog is more successful than most, because in addition to his composing, he is also a very persuasive writer. But one thing that dissatisfies me about his blog is his skill as a critic and teacher. Not that there is anything wrong with being a critic or teacher – I’m a teacher myself — it’s just that critics and teachers have always written about music, and composers have far less frequently written about composing. (Kyle, if you are reading, that’s not a criticism, it’s a compliment)
The obvious reason for this disparity is the relative level of difficulty. It’s much easier (though far from easy) to write about a piece of music than it is to write about composing. When describing compositional processes, we often fall back on inscrutable technical terminology because it’s difficult to put anything else we do into words.
I got into blogging with the hope that I would be able to find a way to write about what it is we do. After two years, I can’t say I’m at all satisfied with my results so far. But I’m going to keep plugging away at it, because there is an enormous gap in the public’s knowledge when it comes to composition, and I think this kind of discussion could be a very helpful bridge.
Of course, I’d feel a whole lot better about it if I could write with half the clarity and ferocity of Mr. Pamuk.