Monday, November 16, 2009


One of the ideas in chapter 6 of Music: Healing the Rift that I found interesting was the discussion on expression in new music. In particular, the ideas were based around the idea of either intentionally avoiding any expressive qualities in the music, or having oblique expression in the music.

I find these ideas interesting since, as a composer, these are issues with which I have to struggle in every piece. Expression in my music is a rather strange thing, and I don't always have an answer as to the role of expression in my music. Frankly, I believe that Stravinsky was right when he said that music is incapable of expressing anything at all; it is in fact the person perceiving the music who is feeling--music is simply the mirror from which those feelings are reflected. However, I realize that a person perceiving music is always going to have an emotional reaction to music, whether or not I intend one in my music, and so a strange conflict arises between the creative intention and the perceived intention.

I found recently in a piece I wrote for solo violin that this issue of expression became much more important to the way I write than is usual. When writing a piece, one is faced with the challenge of being a creator with an intention, but one also is faced with the role of the perceiver who is looking into the musical mirror and can't help but have a reaction. It was this conflict of roles that I found to be the greatest challenge in writing the piece; how to balance my ideas with my reactions to the actualizations of my ideas. In past pieces, this wasn't as much of an issue, simply because I was battling with other challenges of things like notation, clearly presenting ideas, etc. But in this piece, since the music materials were not as difficult and in some ways were more traditional, this conflict in roles came to the foreground.

To be honest, I am not entirely sure that there are any conclusions to draw based upon the experiences I had in writing this piece. The piece in many ways challenged the way in which I work, and I believe my work on this piece actually has presented me a situation with which I am going to be faced more intensely in the future. I have the sense the struggle of identity in the compositional process is going to be a prolonged problem of mine.

I know I haven't written much on what HTR had to say on these issues; however, I decided to write on this because I believe the text actually helped me articulate some of the difficulties I was having in this last piece, and I just thought I'd share this new development of mine since it found resonance with the readings.

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