In the beginning, I never thought of myself as a â€˜Câ€™ (composer) but rather as a â€˜double Mâ€™ (music maker ) which was at the same time, more inclusive of non-traditional processes and sufficiently low-key. Itâ€™s not until Greg Sandow called me a composer in a Village Voice review in 1983 that I began to realize that maybe after all I was a composer, if he said so. Along with this approach, for many years, the idea of a having a real â€˜Câ€™ (career) did not seem a possibility. Even now, strangely enough, I feel compelled to shield my â€˜Composingâ€™ from my â€˜Careerâ€™.
Letâ€™s just for a moment suppose that over-focusing on oneâ€™s career creates a distortion of perspective, similar to what happens to pianists who play in lounges or dance classes too long and somehow lose their own musical pulse, or film music writers who are so used to making music thatâ€™s a backdrop to action that they lose the ability to create music for its own sake. I never had the opportunity to become a film composer (although I may have been happier doing just that), but such reverse opportunities (like the break-up of my rock band) are in retrospect the best things that happened to me, from a strictly creative standpoint, as I am now practiced at creating my own thread without leaning on images or people.
I identify the tensions between career and composing in terms of orientation and allocation. I donâ€™t really like to have an â€˜orientationâ€™ such as a goal, even a Commission – C vs C again, unless it is unavoidable, like â€œan offer one cannot refuseâ€, and when I do, the challenge is to integrate the commission goal with my own composition goals at the time. But itâ€™s all really difficult and fragile at a certain level. The commission can be a total creative disruption and sometimes an impossibility â€“ luckily commissions are not difficult to avoid…
When writing music, one may think about certain performers, voices, instruments, certain moods and moments, some experiential transference. I may compose from the ambient sounds that I hear in my room or outside, from potential cyclic synchronicities with natural phenomena, from spiritual realms discovered while cleaning under the kitchen sink or in the essence of a cup of tea, from carefully laid out hierarchies and correspondences, or simply from direct playing, but essentially it is the weaving of a new fabric of sounds that gets hold of me and Iâ€™ll be immersed in it for whatever time it takes to complete the work â€“ in some cases, several years. The first thread is at once the easiest and the most difficult, torn out of spontaneity, to be later assessed and possibly discarded, trimmed or left unchanged.
In addition, there is an obvious career-versus-composing opposition in terms of time allocation. Career calls for social interaction, composing calls for introspection and to some extent, isolation. As much as I love to spend time with people (and love pleasing them)I find my mind so filled with people-related thoughts – and their problems – that distract me from my composing purpose. My approach to this dilemma is to alternate the periods of creation of new work and periods of presentation of the work. During the creative periods, I may do very little â€˜businessâ€™ and see very few people (my friends know this) even though it holds me back later on (where have all the gigs gone while I was busy composing?â€¦) but I still havenâ€™t found any other way to function.