NewMusicBox interview/feature

I enjoyed very much talking with Molly Sheridan recently for this interview which has been published on New Music USA’s web magazine New Music Box.  For more than 15 years, I’ve turned to New Music USA in order to research music, seek out grants and learn about the music community around me. So I’m very touched to have been asked to do this interview, and I appreciate the article that goes with it. 

About the performer’s role, I’ll just add more strongly that the interpreter can drastically affect the impression a piece of music makes on audiences.  A listener might easily attribute their response to a piece’s own characteristics, but they may actually be reacting to the *way* in which the piece was performed – whether in terms of the emotions or mood conveyed, or musical aspects like pacing, phrasing, sound color, approach to articulation, and bringing across the syntax and rhythmic meaning/clarity. This is of course crucial regarding new compositions but it also holds for older music. Playing repetitively, routinely nicely-shaped phrases and harmonic progressions one after another might please someone who thinks classical music is only pretty and pleasant, but it will not convey the moment-to-moment meanings and metamorphoses with which a fine work of music can fascinate, excite and move you. It can be revelatory to listen to a composition you had thought was boring or unappealing and then to discover, through someone’s performance, how wonderful it is, or by studying and playing the piece yourself. Conversely, it can be disappointing or even disturbing to hear a work, which you know has great expressive richness and potential, performed in a way that makes it tedious and dull to sit through, or gives it unappealing qualities.  This can all be discussed in much greater detail and of course involves subjectivity, questions of taste and expressive priorities but also actual matters of conveying musical meaning in real time.. There are certain works that are crafted so that they are very consistently effective in concert, but frequently the performer-interpreter’s role in the communicating of musical expression can make all the difference!