Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Corey, why aren't you headed "downtown?" 8-)
To some extent, I hope all my pieces explore something that is unfamiliar to me. I don't like to duplicate myself, even though pattern repetition can be a good thing. Some works have been particularly challenging in that they were very unfamiliar to me at the time.
I was never really trained as a pianist (my instrument was a violin, which is great but not terribly useful for composition), and when I went to music school it was assumed that "since you're a composer, you of course must be a pianist." So I was placed in classes with mostly pianists, and had to do the same fun things like sight-read Bach chorales in four different clefs, transposing some staves on the fly as asked. For that reason, I was initially self-conscious of any works for piano. I knew how to write for strings, but really had to prove to myself that I could write for piano. I have since written several works for piano, and I'm not at all uncomfortable anymore with that challenge. But initially, it was an unfamiliar medium to me. I just got an old (ca 1980) piano score of mine revamped and dumped into Finale and PDF, and by that time I was much less uncomfortable with the challenges of writing for piano. Unlike that older 12-tone work, more recent pieces were reflective of my own interests in music with repetitive structures.
Going from 12-tone music into "minimalism" (bad term but I'll use it) also represented something unfamiliar. I was really familiar with a lot of new music in the 70's, but feeling comfortable with it as a composer takes awhile. I didn't delve into it until I felt I could write music that sounded like me, rather than copying others in that idiom. I think that's a challenge we all face.
I'm also thinking of someday writing an opera, which would be extremely unfamiliar territory for me. I'm just not a big fan of operas, with the exception of several 20th-century works (Wozzeck, Lulu, Moses und Aron, Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, Il Prigionero, etc). I think it's good, however, to do something new and unfamiliar. It makes life a lot more interesting, and change is generally a positive thing.