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Talk on Composition

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Title : Talk on Composition
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Talk on Composition

Yesterday I gave a short talk on composition. I was asked to give the presentation by a friend, Ben, who lives in a grand and rustic house in the country. Apart from a couple of friends I really didn't know who was going to show up. I was surprised and pleased to see two ex-presidents of the chamber music festival there. There were also a few writers and painters so it was an artistically aware group. Here is a shot of the space:

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That doesn't give a good sense of the room, which had a fourteen foot ceiling and lovely bullseye windows on the other end. Just right for this sort of presentation. My violinist was out of town so I played some recordings of my music and talked a bit about what composers do and what different kinds there are. I mentioned that historically composers largely provided music for the church and nobility. Nowadays an important group of composers are those nearly anonymous Swedish songwriters that provide a lot of the material for the pop divas. Yes, Swedish! Then there are the film soundtrack composers like John Williams. And finally, there are the "contemporary classical" composers like myself.

I played some of my older pieces, like this song, "Listening to a Monk from Shu" on a poem by Li Po:

I explained that the influences on that piece were the sound of the pipa or Chinese lute. Next I played a piece for violin and guitar that is influenced a bit by Debussy called "Cloudscape."

Next I played a piece for violin and piano called "Chase." This was a pièce d'occasion written for a couple of friends of mine and it uses some Latin American rhythms. The intent was merely to be musically enjoyable. Here is the link:

Finally I played a recording of my new piece, "Dark Dream." I am going to finally post that piece over the weekend. I have been hesitating because it was such a departure for me, the first piece in which I really feel I have ventured onto unexplored ground and brought something new to composition. Though, indeed, there is some Asian influence and it owes a bit to the Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina. But more about that later.

What impressed me so much was the reaction to my music. Everyone was so positive. They said they really felt that the music was deeply expressive and took them on a journey. In other words, my music touched them. As a composer, you spend so much time working alone and often you don't know how your music will be received, especially if it is exploring new territory. So this experience was very gratifying for me. Here are some photos afterwards.

From left to right, our host, Ben, a guest, myself, Barbara (ex-president of chamber music festival) and John, author of numerous books
Myself, with Barbara, who has asked me to give some presentations at her house in town next year

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