A funny recollection just came back to me, something I hadn’t thought about in years.
I was a grad student, in my early twenties, when Jacob Druckman was Composer in Residence with the New York Philharmonic. I spoke with him briefly after a NY Phil concert, mentioning that Vincent Persichetti had told me to give him a copy of my orchestra piece.
His eyes widened. “By all means, get it to me right away,” he said. “I’m organizing some reading sessions, and Vincent’s recommendation is gold to me.”
Those words made me very happy, and dreamy, for a few days. Then I came back to earth. My orchestra piece had some very nice things, but there were also some serious problems with it. I knew I had learned a lot from writing it, but I was capable of much better. The next one might deserve time with the Philharmonic, but this one didn’t.
So I never sent him the piece.
I laugh when I think of this now, because I know I was thinking that other opportunities would come up. As it happened, my next opportunity to write a piece for full orchestra came twelve years later. I waited another seven years after that for the next opportunity. And that’s been it up until now.
Meanwhile, my life has been filled with chamber orchestra and chamber music.
Do I have regrets? Well, yes and no. No doubt, if Druckman had organized a session for my piece, I would have learned gobs of stuff at a very early age about what a first-rate orchestra is capable of doing. And, I suppose, I would have had a substantial career boost, as did the young composers whose pieces Druckman chose that year.
But I’ve always been in this biz for the long haul. I suspected then that the compositional language I was developing, based in offsetting symmetrical and asymmetrical harmonies, was a dead end. And indeed, it was – I was able to use it for another four or five years, but then found I had exhausted its possibilities.
As my life has played out thus far, I’ve been able to gradually clarify my goals and master the elements of my compositional language in order to say what I need to say, and continue developing as an artist.
It’s possible, if my career had been fast-tracked when I was in my mid-20s, I would have still been able to do these things.
But I’ve seen evidence to suggest otherwise.