Posted in composition, COVID-19, creativity, Fathers, holidays, writing

Shuttered Spaces

Painting by Philip Froman

The painting above has no title. My father completed this when he was in his eighties, after taking up a brush for the first time in his seventies. He was a genial man, my father, with torrents of unrealized dreams dammed up inside him. If you look closely, and listen, you can almost hear those dreams crash against the cliffs. Although I should have, I never thought to catalog his work. What I do know is that two of his paintings stood out among the dozens he produced: the one above, and an idyllic lake scene, a complete antithesis to it. Both represent the man he was.

***

For months I’ve found myself in an odd place—trying to sustain the appearance of writing, while not having any interest in writing. Other than the words on this blog, and the occasional letters to family and friends, I’ve produced nothing.

I can’t blame the virus, as tempting as it is. The ideas, and desire to shape them, started drying up long before COVID-19. It just took months of solitude to accept, and make peace with it.

***

Recently, a composer friend, who never heard any of my music, suggested I should start composing again—tentatively, gently, as though he understood he was directing me to a room I’d shuttered and forgotten. I stopped composing after graduate school, for many of the same reasons I don’t write now.

It was an unlikely suggestion, from an unlikely source.

But sometimes, the unlikeliest suggestions, from the unlikeliest sources, resonate in the deepest recesses, in the most organic ways.

Once, I followed a similar unlikely suggestion, from an unlikely source, because it felt right, and it led to love.

This feels the same.

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I have no idea what will spring from my shuttered space. But, if the only music that comes from it is as indicative of who I am, as my father’s paintings were of who he was, then I’ll be happy.

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I imagine this blog will undergo some changes before 2021. Information about books will remain, as will all the old posts. But, the focus will shift, as I reintroduce myself to my roots, and, to you.

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In the meanwhile, I wish you safety, good health, abundant strength, joy, and love in the coming holiday season…

…and, of course, the New Year. I’ll see you then.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

Posted in Uncategorized

Letter to a Young Composer

 

How do you find your voice?

When will you know it’s developed?

I’ve always thought of voice as a by-product, not a goal.  Joan Sutherland was not Beverly Sills. They were both coloraturas, but each woman’s unique sounds were a complex result of physiology, experience, training, intellect, and personality.  Likewise, Mozart and Haydn worked in similar media, during the same era, and admired each other’s work; but their voices were markedly different—unique and authentic to them.

Many writers and composers have actively searched for and attempted to cultivate a unique and authentic voice. Sometimes, along the way, they imitate; occasionally, they test, and generally, they explore. But the actual emergence of a voice that is unique and authentic often comes by surprise—a by-product of experience, training, intellect, personality, and, yes, physiology, too.

I thought about voice a lot, as a young composer trying to find my own, and found some encouragement in this written exchange between the composers David Maslanka and Michael Colgrass, published in the New York Times.

Perhaps some of what they said to each other will feel as valid for you as it did for for me….