March 01, 2006

What makes a composer?

The latest "issue" of NewMusicBox is out, with Joan La Barbara getting the interview love this month. The article didn't have any big surprises*, but it did have an interesting quote:
So I was really intrigued by the idea of working with living composers, with people that I could have a conversation with, discuss ideas, use my brain in a very different way. Contemporary music fulfilled that for me. I could discuss [a piece] with a composer while the music was still being written and have an influence on what the piece was going to be. Actually my last vocal teacher, Marian Szekely-Freschl, said to me, "You must work with composers. You must help them because they don't know how to write for the voice." And so I really felt as if this was one of my responsibilities. And then as I was working more with composers I realized that I had ideas of my own that were not going to get heard unless I became a composer, so these things developed sort of simultaneously.
It's kind of an assumed notion that divine inspiration/in-born gifts are necessary to be a composer. It's nice when people give you that wide-eyed impressed look when you tell them you write music, but it's a shame that so many people see musical creation as an off-limits activity. Every now and then, you're lucky and hit on an idea that makes you feel like a capital C-Composer, but most of the time I see composition as something that one does either because music/sound is your native language, or because you're so opinionated about music that it was only a matter of time before you tried your hand at it.

* No big surprises, unless you didn't know that she was a composer as well as a singer. If this is news to you, make haste to UbuWeb and listen to 73 Poems.

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