21 July 2017
This past week, Robert Lynn recorded the 2nd and 3rd movements of “Proxemics,” my fiendishly difficult piece for unaccompanied cello. Lila Hammer and Pamela Haynes also recorded all of “Manchester Sonata” for clarinet and piano.
All of the pieces slated for the final 9 or 10 recording sessions require pretty advanced-level musicians. One of the reasons these sessions were scheduled later in the summer, was to allow extra time for these performers to prepare. I am pleased with the results so far. This has been quite an exciting journey, and I am humbled again and again by the dedication of these musicians who bring such personal integrity to the process. It would be so much easier to invest less of themselves. I’m a far cry from Beethoven or Mozart, after all. But, their hours of rehearsal and close attention to detail prove the high priority they have placed on this project, and I am deeply moved.
Haley (my student assistant and recording engineer), who is a composition major herself, asked me “Is it hard for you to listen to people play your music? Do you ever dislike their interpretation?” I thought that was an excellent question. My response wasn’t very profound in the moment, but upon further reflection — this is what I have to say (hopefully Haley will see this): I love writing for people I know, because I can imagine with a fair amount of accuracy how they will interpret a particular phrase or musical gesture. I make every effort to write music that will cater to their individual strengths (pyro-technics, tone quality, expression, articulation, range, tessitura, etc.) while also writing pieces they will appreciate and enjoy learning and performing. If I stick to that formula, I am seldom disappointed. My next job is to be sure I notate the music in such a way that parameters are clear without stifling the passion, enthusiasm, and interpretation of whoever endeavors to perform it. Creating music is only half of the composer’s job. The other half (sometimes more than half) is notating what you hear in a way that draws out the performance you want, and yet prevents the performance you don’t want.
I feel very honored to know people who inspire me to create music especially for them. Photos of some of those special people are below.