For me, the most significant event in music in the 20th Century is, without doubt, the invention of the micro-processor and the resulting digital advances that followed. Music is now composed, performed, listened-to, copied, practiced, analyzed, and distributed in a way that would be almost unrecognizable for musicians in 1899.
Most people believe that music is a gift that is raregiven only to those special few whom the muses touch. But that is not true.
What is the most significant event that has occurred in your profession in the 20th Century? What lesson do you take away from that event?
Some composers might argue that the most significant event for music in the 20th century was the riot in Paris in 1913 at the premiere of Stravinsky's ballet,"Rite of Spring."
Others might claim that Schoenberg's song cycle "Das Buch der hangenden Garten" in 1908 is more important since it was among the first pieces to be composed in a freely dissonant style, leading to atonal music and the later serial music of Schoenberg and his followers.
Yet other musicians and artists in other fields might argue that the end of music itself was composed in 1952 by John Cage in his piece "4' 33" . In this piece, the performers of the composition sit on the stage and remain absolutely silent for four minutes and thirty-three secondsthe "music" being the natural sounds of the hall and its environment.
But, for me, the most significant event in music in the 20th Century is, without doubt, the invention of the micro-processor and the resulting digital advances that followed. Music is now composed, performed, listened-to, copied, practiced, analyzed, and distributed in a way that would be almost unrecognizable for musicians in 1899. As a simple example, when composers began a work in 1899, they had to sit with pen in hand at a desk or at the keyboard and write. Perhaps the composer could play his composition on the piano, but if the work was for a large group with multiple instruments, there would be no way for the composer to hear his or her work beyond imagining the piano was really a violin or a bassoon. In fact, the composer might not even be able to play every section of his or her new opus.
But with the computer, the composer may "play" his tune one instrument at a time into the computer and hear every instrument played back simultaneously in accurate time. And while the computer is no match for a live violin, at least the composer's imagination is not taxed beyond creativity. With the computer, every facet of a composer's work is made easier. In fact, even helping the public to hear the work is made easier, since a single performance of a work is portable almost everywhere through the use of CD's and portable CD players.
I'm not sure if there is a lesson to be learned here, but musicians are notorious techno-phobes. (We're all afraid computers will take our jobs...) So, the lesson to be learned is to help those poor souls accept the inevitable. The digital age will even touch musicians.
What's the most meaningful lesson you've taken from you vocation?
No matter how hard I practice, no matter how much attention I give to every detail, no matter how I prepare, no matter how many times I've done it right before, there will always be a wrong note. But the audience won't care about the wrong noteor even know it's thereif I am performing music for and with the audience rather than performing as if they were not there at all. I'd rather perform under pressure than practice alone anytime.
Which mentor has had the most significant impact on your life?
My junior year at Wabash, I studied music composition for the first time with Erik Lund. He opened my mind to music in ways that I'd never considered before. He made me listen to music I hated. He made me play music I hated. He made me analyze music I hated. He made me talk about music that I hated. And the final insult was that he made me compose music in the style that I hated. But when I was done with that composition, I had a profound respect for the style and for the composers who worked in that style. Erik continued to force me to try new combinations of sounds and textures, new styles of composition, new ways of listening, and new ways of writing. His creativity remains an inspiration to me today. I still use the methods and creative processes that he taught to me over a decade ago.
What is the greatest misconception the public has about your vocation?
Most people believe that music is a gift that is raregiven only to those special few whom the muses touch. But that is not true. Anyone who can hear (and even some who can't!), can sing or play an instrument. Whether it's humming a tune in the shower or playing DeBussey at Carnegie hall, everyone has musical ability. It doesn't take years of training or hours of practice to make music. It just takes a soul that wants to be heard.
I wish more people sang carols on Christmas morning, played the flute with their children, clapped their hands in time together, or joined a community of other music makers. Instead, too many people sit and listen to others perform, rationalizing that the performers are touched by the muse of music and that they are not. Secretly, they are the best air guitar players in the neighborhood, or can sing "La Donna Mobile" in the shower better than any Caruso.