On Composers

On Composers
May 11, 2020 leonard slatkin

There is a big difference between those who create and those who recreate. Pulling those notes, chords, rhythms and harmonies out of thin air requires skills that are both learned as well as instinctive. In this chapter, I examine the relationship between the composer and the performer.

How do they work together, especially if the person who wrote the piece of music is no longer alive? What responsibility does the conductor have when presenting new or unfamiliar music to the audience? How can a composer have a direct relationship with the public outside of the concert hall?

Perhaps you have other thoughts, some that may not even pertain to what we call classical music.

Questions and suggestions (4)

  1. Jeffrey Biegel 3 weeks ago

    Will current conditions inspire composers to write more for solo instruments, and small ensemble chamber music? Can there be a resurgence in the solo piano recital as a performing event once enjoyed on a wider scale in the 19th and 20th centuries?

  2. David Chesky 3 weeks ago

    How can a composer have a direct relationship with the public outside of the concert hall?

    The modern composer needs to circumvent the concert hall in order to reach their audience. The concert hall by perpetuating the same classic European works is choking the voice of the modern composer. How can American composers create their own unique sound in this environment that is the inverse of all the other art forms? The current concert hall audience does not celebrate anticipation. With the progress of AI, the pendulum will shift and the composer will be able to realize online and via recordings anything they can imagine. Perhaps in the future there will not be the social need to hear music as a mass collective from the standard orchestra and audience’s perspective. It is hard to let go because we romanticize this music and tradition. In the end Darwinism always wins. If the modern orchestra cannot adapt and reach out to a new audience and be relevant in a modern society rather than an aural museum, the system will collapse and be supplanted with a new art form.

  3. Terry Dotson 3 weeks ago

    You mention performing music by composers who are no longer alive. The interpreting of these pieces obviously falls to the conductor alone. But how do conductors and performers react when a living composer has real disagreements regarding how his/her composition is being played? Do the performers make adjustments in their interpretation to suit the composer? Is there a compromise between the two parties? Or does the conductor just dig in his or her heals and refuse to budge? Does personal “chemistry” between the parties have any bearing on how the scenario plays out?

    Perhaps this doesn’t happen very often; a modern composer may just be gratified that the work is being played at all!

  4. anonymous 3 weeks ago

    How do you find your voice as a composer and avoiding feeling outdated yet true to yourself and the aesthetic you feel comfortable expressing yourself to?

    As a conductor and composer, do you feel a disconnect between academic composing (very niche, usually avant garde sounds, the “IT” sound of the late 20th and predominant trend currently) and the expectations of the musicians and the audience?

    As we become a more connected, diverses and “activist” society, Art often enters politics and societal trends and politics often inform the way we experience and interpret Art. For new music and in general across “memory making” (the Arts), do you think there are limits composers should be mindful of in terms of exploring other cultures, events, and trauma? (cultural exploitation).

    How are current institutions shaping the way composers are (making a) living and how would you describe the politics of commissions/the relationship of these institutions with composers?

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