Icebreaker is the name of a fantastic new-music ensemble in England, a space in Amsterdam that used to present new music and no longer does but still serves excellent food, and an annual festival presented by the Seattle Chamber Players. I can’t imagine why that one word has so many new-music connotations.
In any case, the next Icebreaker festival in Seattle is in three parts: two concerts of new music curated by Alex Ross and myself, respectively, January 25 and 26; and a Morton Feldman marathon on January 27. The festival takes place at On the Boards, 100 West Roy Street. The concert I’m involved with is called “Classics of Downtown”, and features music by Bill Duckworth, Elodie Lauten, Eve Beglarian, Janice Giteck, and John Luther Adams. Also a new piece of my own: Kierkegaard, Walking for flute, clarinet, violin, and cello, the best (in my opinion) of my 2007 works. (I didn’t curate myself, the commission came with the gig.) I’m also speaking about my music at 10 AM on Saturday, reading from my latest book at 4:15, giving a pre-concert talk at 7 that evening, and talking about Feldman on a panel the next day between 10 AM and 1. It’s a lot of talking, but I’m excited about it, and also about visiting Seattle to see so many friends, not only the composers on my concert, but Alex and some of his protègès, and the Seattle players, with whom I visited Costa Rica a few years ago. It’s going to be a great weekend. Good things always happen to me in Seattle, it’s a charmed location for me. I began my piece The Planets there in 1994, and wrote “Venus,” which was at the time the best music I’d ever written.
On the Boards has a podcast up in which I talk about the composers and pieces on my concert. I don’t even know what a podcast is, but I am now the author/performer/podcaster pf one.
And the day I return to New York I resume teaching at Bard. I’ve written 100 minutes of music in 13 months, and, for the first time in my life, I’m actually tired of composing. Usually I get to compose for two weeks here, six weeks there, and I’m always squeezing it in between other obligations. This was my full composing year. Believe it or not, I’m finally looking forward to waking up some morning soon and being able to do something besides put notes down on paper, or entering notes into Sibelius. I’ve now lived as a composer, and I know what it’s like. Funny, some of the pieces wrote themselves (“Mercury” and “Uranus” from The Planets, Charing Cross), some needed revisions but clicked into place flawlessly (Kierkegaard, Walking), some I had to struggle with but after much work they came out splendid (Sunken City, Olana for vibraphone), and others were just damned hard work (my guitar quartet, “Saturn” from The Planets). I feel like it has to do with mood swings and inspiration levels, but, really, it seems to depend most on the type of piece, because one piece will zip along easily, and the next day another will bog down. The easiest pieces to write are not necessarily the best, but the hardest to write seem to lead in the most interesting and unexpected directions. For the first time in my life I am sated with composing, and ready to take a break. 2007 was the most productive year of my musical life. If you’re near Seattle not this weekend but the next one, come celebrate it with me – and pick up a copy of my new CD Private Dances.