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.
  • 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.