Great art is not created in committee.
–Robert Hughes

Lately, the kind of work I’ve been seeking is collaborative in nature. I suppose any composition that involves performers other than the composer must be collaborative to some extent, but I’m speaking of creating works where music is not the primary focus, but isn’t necessarily secondary either.

Some of these works are fairly conventional and easily categorized, like my current commission for large choir, trombone quartet, and the American Repertory Ballet. The work, Worlds End. And Worlds Begin, is to be a semi-evening length work that is essentially a (modern) ballet work. More on this later”¦

Other works may fit into categories like “installation art” and “multimedia design” though I find the first term too apt to conjure images of works from the 60’s and the latter term is just too 90’s. I suppose the word “interdisciplinary” could be used, but even that term already smells of early-00s staleness. But then, terminology has always been a problem for composers.

Anyone who has collaborated a lot (or just once and never again!) can probably recall an instance where having to collaborate was tedious rather than synergistic. I’ve had these experiences, but lately collaborating seems easy and produces work far more interesting to a broader audience than any work I could have done on my own. Because of this new found ease, I suggested to Line Bruntse, a visual artist working on an installation in Milan for which I’m designing the sound, that perhaps I’d be a total tyrant were I to encounter something that didn’t meet my vision. She emailed back:

I could see you as a tyrant, only nobody would ever know they would simply think they were just having fun with you. I don’t think they would realize they were bending to your will because they would just want to… Sneaky…

As nice as that thought is, I doubt I have that much Carnegie-like prowess. I think it would be more accurate to say I’ve just come to value collaboration. Artistically, I want to be influenced by my collaborator. Years ago, it would have been possible for me to have a vision so inflexible that it might break from trying to leave room for another’s idea. Now, not opening myself to the influence of a collaborator would make a collaborative work seem inauthentic.

Who’s collaborating? Why? Why not?

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