Saturday, August 20, 2005
The Final Hours
The season has ended at Brevard and we've all gone back to our 'old' lives or on to new ones. I've moved to Buffalo and start Ph.D studies at SUNY next week, just two days after I go back to Ohio to march in graduation ceremonies! It was a busy final two weeks at Brevard and I just didn't have an opportunity to write here. I should like to summarize those final two weeks and to provide some final reflections:
The last two weeks at Brevard were a whirlwind of activity. I can attest to this in the composition program especially, as we had three concerts in about a week (two concerts only two days apart!) This was a busy, even stressful time for me, as it was my job to coordinate rehearsal schedules and locations (though individual composers also did a lot in this realm). We had three enormously successful concerts, which were quite well attended. The two final concerts were "moonlight concerts" (at 10p), and the final concert was fairly long and included quite a bit of the "avant garde" variety but it was nevertheless well received by the students who attended. It is nothing new that contemporary music should receive less support than the more "traditional" fare, but the fact that we composers were solely responsible for our own advertising (our concerts were not listed in the brochures, etc.) seems to me not a very beneficial aspect of the composition program at Brevard. I'm tired of being "underground", of having to do everything for myself, as if what I do doesn't really matter. This ubiquitous state of affairs was only ground more deeply into the wound that the "outside" has inflicted.
While this is all true, my experience at Brevard was overwhelmingly good. I guess I came to a point of being a 'new student' again after about half way through the summer. When I arrived, everything was new to me and I didn't have a lot of demands or complaints, I simply made what there was 'work for me'. But after a while the little things started annoying me too much and I started thinking about changes that could improve the experience. Once I reached the 'half way' point, though, I realized this attitude was getting in the way. I continued to fight this attitude in myself and when it cropped up in interactions with friends. It wasn't easy, but it did clear the way for some real work: the music. I rarely suffered from blocks during the summer, and when I did experience them it was always in moments where I'm used to them...such as at musical transitions. But the time constraint of getting good music to performers forced me through these stubborn spots, and I'm satisfied that I did the best I could and I'm happy with the progress and results. I had to look at the music as a 'student piece'...like a charcoal sketch it is not intended to be torn apart and erased and corrected. The benefit of doing this work comes, of course, in the doing (and 'having done') AND in careful post-analysis. I don't think any of it is particularly of 'masterpiece' stature...and it's educational to hypothesize WHY that is so. I, for one, tend to spend too much time wrestling with corrections rather than analyzing/letting be/moving on.
Don Freund echoed what other teachers have been trying to tell me for quite some time: conserve materials. That comes from my first composition lesson, too, with Wallace DePue at Bowling Green, who declared that I had enough materials in a little 3-minute piece to create a whole symphony. Maybe I should focus on the other extreme until it's time to find that 'happy place'. Watch out Reich.
The friendships that began at Brevard are precious to me and I foresee future projects together. At the very least I will be watching for their names just as fervently as they watch for mine. While the composition program at Brevard has some room to grow, perhaps one of the greatest benefits was the enormous amount of time we had to devote to our craft and the priceless interactions with outstanding performers. And for me the spectacular, wild land was a profoundly spiritual inspiration and balm. I want to publicly thank Brevard Music Center and all the supporters and sponsors for providing to me a unique opportunity to live and work in a vital music center. I will cherish this experience for a lifetime. And to the community of Brevard: thanks for being so welcoming and tolerant of this first-time 'yankee' visitor to the South!