Tidbits about composing and performing from Debra’s interviews and articles.

  • A composer’s best friend is their eraser.
  • Composing music is best when it works like projectile vomiting.
  • I never consider a composition complete until it is performed.
  • Then, there’s that moment when you’re standing on the podium in a full Mozart Requiem rehearsal and offer a very literal translation of the Latin word “semini,” after which you remember there are high school students in the chorus. Oy.
  • I was just informed that a friend of mine sent me a gift from a winery, due to arrive on Monday. I have never looked so forward to the end of a weekend in my life!
  • I definitely get “in the zone” when I’m creating and this causes me to ignore phone calls, e-mails, children, pets, my spouse, my friends, and sometimes even my own needs. You’d never know it from looking at me, but I forget to eat all the time.
  • The craft of musical notation is as much about preventing the performance you don’t want, as it is ensuring the performance you do want.
  • History has proven that artists, musicians, and poets have a way of turning our gaze inward, revealing the hard truths about who we are and what our behaviors bring upon society. Sometimes, those deep difficult searches require nuance, metaphor, and melody to make the resulting blow of self-awareness a bit more bearable. The emotional burden is too great without artistry to help move us from destruction to construction; from ruination of ourselves and one another toward self-growth, course correction, and the edification of others.
  • My own approach to setting texts is very intentional, because I truly believe the sound of words, as well as their meaning and context offers a colorful palette for creative expression.
  • Melismas help add linear motion and flow to what might be an otherwise wooden syllabic rendering of the poem.
  • Most of the time, composition is work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enjoyable work; but, while it does require some giftedness, it often comes right down to spending time both writing and erasing.
  • Setting private letters to music is a bit invasive. I am making public something that was intended to be private, so I take the responsibility seriously.
  • Only music can inspire singular moments that are as fresh as they are fleeting. The best music is never the same twice. That is what makes live performance such a treasure.
  • Many music teachers and conductors preach about “following,” but the truly great collaborators anticipate each other. This mutually instinctive kinetic response makes all the difference in the world!
  • As a composer, I find the necessary process of self-promotion to be creatively stifling. I mean, if I wanted to go into marketing, I would have gone into marketing!
  • Ensemble work is all about listening and responding simultaneously, not one after the other. It is an inherent, indescribable vibe: leaving space, filling space, anticipating, and nimbly reflecting or complementing each other’s color and texture. It’s a constantly morphing flow.
  • I prefer to say very little from the podium. If I’m doing my job right and the ensemble is attentive, my hands and arms offer the needed instruction.
  • Composers and performers have a mutually dependent relationship. Musicians are nothing without compositions, and compositions are only dots on a page without performers.
  • Creativity isn’t just something one can shut down indefinitely. It happens, whether we have time for it or not. I think this is the most misunderstood aspect of creativity.
  • I am fortunate to live a life engulfed in music, and that I can bask in some of the most creative, positive energy imaginable.