I’ve been meaning to mention that my March profile of David Borden was my last “American Composer” column for Chamber Music magazine. It was a great gig, but in recent years it was becoming an onerous burden to interrupt my other projects every two months and have to get my head into someone else’s music. Overall I wrote 69 articles for the bimonthly magazine from 1998 to 2012, profiling 61 composers individually plus several others in the September articles I wrote about more general subjects. When I started, my predecessors in that column had, to date, profiled 70 composers – all of them famous, and 3 – three – of them women. For most of my years, I conscientiously split my articles equally between male and female composers, and also wrote about quite a few young composers and those who weren’t very well known yet. I’m proud of how much I expanded the column’s purview in several directions. Then, when we had the minimalism conference at UMKC in 2009, I got criticized because there were no papers submitted on women composers (as if I could have influenced that), and I decided to quit keeping count. I figured if women composers were going to damn me, after all I’ve done to publicize them at the Voice and elsewhere throughout my entire career, then they didn’t really want to be championed as much as they wanted to complain. I thought of listing here the 61 composers I wrote about for Chamber Music [26 of them women: I went back and counted], but I’ve learned that it pisses composers off (myself included) to see lists of celebrated composers that they’re not on. A lot of my favorite composers didn’t get written about, because given the venue and its presumed readership, I did try to focus on people who wrote chamber music, which quite a number of my musical protégés don’t do.
The upshot is that I’m finally no longer a music critic – my last such gig has ended. I worked as a critic from December 1982 to March 2012 – 29 and 1/2 years, which the astrologically minded will realize is a full Saturn cycle. Major life phases tend to come to an end after 29 and 1/2 years, and so this one happily did. Now I’m going through an odd period in which I don’t really know what I am, publicly, besides being a music theory professor. That happens when Saturn passes through the eleventh house in your horoscope – some new phase of your life starts up without you really knowing what it’s going to be, as one did for me in 1982. At age 56, I’m in the mood to only write about what I deeply feel like writing about at the moment. Criticism is a noble profession, or could be if we took it seriously enough and applied rigorous standards to it, but you get pigeonholed as a bystander, someone valued for your perspective on others rather than for your own potential contributions. I fell into the profession pretty much by accident, it did very well by me – I can only imagine I would have ended up pushing a broom somewhere if I hadn’t happened into it – and I’m relieved and happy to leave it behind.