Saturday, February 6, 2010

Discovering and Creating the Music of Today

During the application process for various colleges, I had to write several 'statements of purpose' or intent. The following (with the exception of the first paragraph) is culled from several of those statements and gives a background of what got me into music and hopefully conveys something of my views and goals as a composer.

As a lover of music, I know the unparalleled joy that can come from a good piece of music. For me, a great piece of music is one that opens up new depths of thought and beauty, and allows the listener to either leave the moment they are in, or enjoy it fully. Years ago, sitting at the piano, I discovered that I too could create music, not just consume. By the age of 17 I knew that I had to make music, that it was part of who I am. I have spent my time since cultivating both that destiny and talent. My degree in jazz studies helped me realize further the potential that making music can have to change lives, bring people together, or just let everyone have a good, quality time. My dad used to ask me what I thought about when I didn't have anything to think about. Music. Musical form. How movements in a piece I will write might relate together. How to improve a piece I am working on. Although my degree is not in composing, (BYU-I does not offer one) my passion has been composing and my activities during my undergraduate studies have proved that again and again. I founded the Student Composers Society at BYU-I, pursued compositional lessons (from my own pocket and competing with my jazz and other courses) and have relentlessly improved my composing talents by composing almost constantly. Since I began college I have spent my free time & money researching composing and composers. I've felt an affinity with composers making music today or recently. I long to join to their ranks.

In my first semester of college I heard a work by a living composer being performed on the radio. My first thought was: what are they doing to that violin? Followed by: I like it. I was enthralled and baffled. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard. I began a studious search to find out how the gap was bridged between the music of composers covered in textbooks and music being composed today. I believed that if the music of one, two or three centuries ago could speak so powerfully, the music of today could be even more significant.

Who has been composing in the last 50 years? What are the trends and techniques being used? How are these composers supporting themselves professionally? What are their compositional philosophies? Why isn't this music reaching more people? What is it about this music that moves me so deeply? I sought the answers to these questions and was exposed to dozens of composers. As I listened to their music, there were many gratifying moments that presented more beautiful and wonderful sounds than I had known possible.

The more I searched, the more I realized that if I wanted to hear perfectly pertinent music I would have to create it. I began composing in earnest, taking lessons and talking to other students interested in composing. My research on modern composers doubled as a course in modern musical language and techniques.

On February 28th, 2008, I first saw my name as composer on the program and heard my work performed - a hymn and a movement for string quartet (now revised and in my portfolio as Zerkalo). It is hard to describe the feeling of hearing my own compositions performed. I suppose it is rather like hearing your child perform for the first time at a piano recital. I was nervous, yes, but also elated at each sound. Here was the complete cycle of music being played out: the composer has just finished the work. The performers have rehearsed and are now on stage sharing their talents. For the first time, an audience hears the work. What a thrill to share with them this pure and undiluted musical experience! As I spoke with people afterwards, I realized the concert had had as much impact on them as it had on me. I felt inspired and filled with a desire to create and share more music.

To hear living music impressed on me the importance of the music of today - music that expresses, exalts and exemplifies the tenor of our times. As important as the music of the past is, it is this living music that holds a mirror up to our times and has the most potential to be an instrument of social change.

From hearing a new work on the radio to the first performance of my own works to the present, my course has become increasingly clear - I feel it is my duty as a composer to enrich our culture, ensuring its progress by composing exquisitely expressive music that will become an important part of people’s lives. I want my music to reach people in a variety of ways - whether on their iPods, at thought provoking concerts, during reverent religious works, or in lighter but not less well-crafted music influenced by jazz and popular idioms. In all the music I write I want there to be a depth of thought and form - music that satisfies both the ears and mind. In order to be so versatile and effective as a composer - to 'wax poetic' with the language of music - I want to master a vast palette of musical means from all styles and periods. I will also need practical training as a professional composer to thrive in the changing music industry.

This is why I am pursuing graduate studies in composition.

1 comment:

Ryan Spackman said...

Have you finished that project since this post?