on composing music

January, 2009 

 

 

At age 11, the music I loved most was Francis Lai’s then-current wordless theme from the French film A Man and a Woman, and Aaron Copland’s El Salon Mexico; the movie music because it used the harmonic vocabulary of Debussy and was easy to sing, the Copland because it had more rhythmic vitality than any rock music I knew. At 14, realizing that building music interested me more than performing it, I chose to become primarily a composer rather than a pianist, an easy teenage decision which initiated a complicated, life-long search for a personal musical voice. Much later, as an experienced, professional musician, I found my distinctive voice in the center of the imaginary division between classical and popular music. 

 

I earned my degrees in composition at Juilliard, then went on to teach music at a half-dozen universities and colleges while composing a library of chamber music, piano sonatas, choruses, numerous scores for modern dance and ballet, songs, a symphony, a piano concerto - learning, experimenting, exploring, taking chances, and (I hope) always growing. 

 

My music is diverse, concise, melodic, rhythmically driven, architectural, cheerfully dissonant, contemporary, at times subtly influenced by jazz and rock, and in turns meditative, humorous, moody, impressionistic, and exuberant. I'm interested in science and especially astronomy, and often use astronomical imagery for my more descriptive works. I think I've truly communicated, musically, when I overhear someone casually hum or sing something I’ve written. Discovering a potentially memorable musical idea is like discovering gold, and there's nothing I like more than when a new idea – a melody, a short theme, an intriguing rhythm or novel harmonic progression – captures my imagination and sets me on an all-consuming search for all its permutations and possibilities. 

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