Paging Ken Russell: Listomania has overtaken the Composers Forum page. I’m beginning to regret my little contribution to this phenomenon.

So on to another topic: Taking a page from Tom Myron, Jerry asked what other art forms or disciplines have had the biggest impact on our composing. For me there is no hesitation: literature has been a defining force in the way I think about my work. In fact, I could break down my artistic influences in the following manner:

Literature (plays, novels, poetry, etc.): 65%
Film: 20%
Visual arts (painting, sculpture, etc.): 10%
Other (dance, architecture, etc.) 5%

This is not to say that I have any less respect or love for great dance, paintings or architecture (please don’t send me your indignations — if you do, you are missing the point). I just find that these art forms have a less direct influence on how I think about composing. And I think those proportions are an undiscussed aspect of compositional style: I know I have colleagues who are heavily influenced by the plastic arts, and their music is different from mine in a way that reflects those different influences.

And therein lies a huge part of the lack of comprehension we often have for one another’s work. Some music is narrative-driven, some is design-driven, etc. Vincent Persichetti once told me that all music is dance, and while I loved the man and respect his work, that connection to dance is not one I immediately warm up to, so it requires an extra effort for me to lose myself in his music. Not that I’m incapable of appreciating it, but I need to step farther outside of myself to find his center.

Do you think this is an important distinction? Or do you find it irrelevant? I wonder, if we are able to articulate these influences in this manner, how it might help or hinder others in appreciating what we do. I know of several specific instances where I was able to grasp another composer’s art more readily once I understood his/her non-musical influences.

Can you assign percentages to your non-musical influences?

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