Something else I’ve been thinking lately builds on my recent post What Composers Talk About – and it will seem self-contradictory to say it, but I can’t tell the absolute truth if I’m constantly on the watch-out against self-contradiction. Someone nominated me for some award, and for the first time in quite a few years I had to write an artistic statement. I used to love doing this. I had all kinds of “reasons” that had led me to write the kind of music I write, I had studied subjects that backed up my choices, I had followed a logical chain from my experiences to my aesthetic, and could delineate it. These artistic statements never won me any awards or anything, but boy, did I find them convincing.
I recently joked in print that I write a cool, steady music in an attempt to calm myself down, and it wasn’t entirely facetious. I think I’m also trying to calm the world down. Modernist music was an honest reflection of tensions underlying the veneer of civilization, but in the end it morphed into a self-fulfilling prophecy – people now know the world is chaotic, violent, and disappointing, and no longer need to hear that in the concert hall. I believe in the artist’s ability to envision a future, and at this point that future must be sustainable and ecological. Toward that end, I think the future of music lies in increased sensitivity and perception, which is why I work with tempo complexities and higher harmonics among the overtones (with an increased array of expressive intervals). In other words, I think music has gone as far as is currently meaningful in an outward, extroverted direction, and now needs to turn inward, to become more meditative and develop finer gradations (much like Indian music, a tradition I admire but have never studied). The challenge now is to absorb dissonance and complexity without giving rein to anguish or anger. My music sometimes employs political texts, but I don’t believe the artist has much right to preach: I prefer to state ideas in sharp focus but with their ambiguity intact so that people have to settle within themselves what their reaction is.