I don’t want to be rich and famous.

Does that sound disingenuous? It isn’t.

As far as money goes, I want to have enough for my family to live in relative safety and comfort. Thankfully, I do. There have been times in my life when I’ve had more money than I needed, and it made me almost as nervous as having too little. Mind you, if some extra money comes my way, I don’t complain, but the idea of having tons of it doesn’t attract me.

And fame? Why would anyone want to be famous? What is the appeal of being known by people you’ve never met? Sounds more like a neurosis than a healthy aspiration. I read a newspaper article about a friend of mine recently, a conductor, who was giving a talk at a luncheon. The guy who wrote the article made note of the fact that my friend snuck a piece of someone else’s cake toward the end of the meal. What kind of nut wants or needs that kind of scrutiny?

Where does the pursuit of dough and notoriety lead? Call me goal-driven, but I like to know what end I’m pursuing. Take fame: how many anonymous people do you think it takes to make you famous? Last I checked, there is no piece of music that is universally loved by everyone on the planet, so relative fame presumably would be measured by percentages. Tell me when you figure out what percentage would make you say, “Ah, now I’m famous.” Do you want a million listeners? Well, that’s less than 2% of the world population – pretty paltry pickings.

Do you want Mona Lisa/Michael Jackson numbers? Don’t you get the sense that the larger the number of anonymous consumers, the less focused the impact? How many of those people who are familiar with the image of Mona Lisa have really had what anyone would recognize as an artistic experience with the actual painting?

(And here’s where I can insert a request: if anyone knows where I read this quote recently, please fill me in – I’ve been reading so voraciously lately, I’ve lost track of sources. It was a hilarious updating of the old Andy Warhol quote: something to the effect of “in the age of the internet, everyone is famous to fifteen people.”)

I’m very clear about what I want from my composing, and fame and fortune don’t figure into the picture. For me, the act of composing is an intensely satisfying investment in the well-being of the species. As a member of the species, my own well-being is taken into account, but not in undue proportion. The real point is to make new things, hopefully beautiful and durable new things, as a counterpoise to all of the destruction homo sapiens wreaks upon itself and its environs. The more harm done by humanity, the more driven I am to produce my little corner of consolation.

And every time I make a small dent in favor of beauty, I have a more substantive sense of value than I could ever get from mass worship or multi-digit bank transactions.

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