Archive for May, 2006

I just got back from Philadelphia, where I saw a rehearsal of Gerald Levinson’s “Toward the Light” for organ and orchestra. It’s a great piece being played by great orchestra featuring a great organist.

For the most part, I find organ and orchestra to be incompatible, but Levinson navigates this problem deftly. At times the work seemed like a piece for orchestra and electronics, or organ and electronics, with one monster being the ghost of the other. The use of color (Levinson’s specialty) was not only interesting but also meticulously crafted. Timbre changes were paced the way romantic composers might have paced harmonic rhythm, providing a sense of direction and destination to an otherwise atmospheric, yet intense, work.

Afterwards, I had coffee with the ever-passionate Eric Bruskin, and the extremely amicable Jim Jordon. We discussed acoustics, Taoism, music education, and professional dancers’ abilities in fist-fighting. It was a good time.

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I love it when an audience responds well to a work of mine. That’s because there is a lot of “me” in the work and hearty applause (with positive and meaningful comments afterwards) is a sort vindication that my technical skills supported this transaction.

When I write music for commercials, I suspend my “voice” and provide what I think may strengthen the visual message. In this case, failure to reach the audience is indeed failure.

But for my concert music, I invite the audience to meet me half-way. I think it’s fine for composers to be critical of a close-minded audience. To be un-thinking is as dangerous as it is undesirable.

I say this, having gotten almost all positive reviews and comments and applause for presentations of my work. Whenever I am programmed on a concert the presenters love to point out that I’m “modern”¦ yet listener-friendly!” which is far too apologetic for my tastes.

On Seq21, or any new music site for that matter, there is always talk of how our audience became alienated after WWII and whatnot. Personally, I’ll be glad when animosity for the audience is hip again. Not that I really hate the audience, or write music that is not listener-friendly, I just don’t understand the pressure to bend towards the wants of overly-broad focus groups. What’s the point of making decisions based on likeability? Shouldn’t composers make choices based on clarity of idea?

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