Friend of S21 Alexandra Gardner blogs this week on why she composes. Her answers are simple and to the point and pretty much sum it up for me: it’s fun (even when it’s frustrating), I have to (I’m reminded of Olivier Messiaen’s somewhat precious but beautifully apt answer to this question when the author Claude Samuel posed it to him: you may as well ask why an apple tree produces apples! I simply don’t know how to do anything else), and sometimes my music reaches someone, be it a performer or an audience member, in a way that other music reaches me. That is a truly precious and beautiful gift to be able not just to give, but to receive (it is a humbling gift to know if a work of mine has meant something to just one person).
One other reason that I compose (and created and conduct an ensemble) is that I think it is important, culturally, aesthetically and politically. It is said that the health of a nation’s soul is measured in its art. In our nation it is very easy to be discouraged by the lack of importance given to the arts, particularly new art music. In a time when making a living solely as a composer, let alone reaching a wide audience, is a near impossibility for most of us it is a patriotic act to be a composer PRECISELY because we are apparently so unimportant to the culture at large. What we do IS important. What we do has GREAT VALUE. For what we do is make music that ideally goes BEYOND the three minute pop song; music that acknowledges the intelligence of its audience, rather than take it for granted; music that challenges our ever decreasing attention spans and asks its audience to be transported beyond mundane reality to comment upon it or perhaps even at times transcend it.
At least that’s why I do it.