Some words on composing, my music and the state of modern music

I am a composer who is not ashamed of using triads, tonal harmonies, simple textures, rhythms based on a regular pulse, references to popular culture, stealing from the musical heritage of the past and the odd trivial turn. My music is eclectic and often exhibits great variety, fast change, contrasts, vitality, energy and a directness of expression. My musical language draws on a multitude of influences, ranging from early 20th century music (Stravinsky, Mahler, Ives, Sibelius, Debussy) to (post-)minimalism (Adams, Reich) to certain kinds of pop, jazz and even non-western music. However, I am not interested in simply mixing style quotations into one endless, fragmented grab-bag of music (which is the danger of such an eclectic approach). Rather, with each piece I am aiming for a coherent and organic musical whole that somehow reflects the enormous diversity of styles and genres that are all part of the musical air we breathe today. I tend to view my musical language as protean: a language that is easily capable of plastically transforming from one type of music to another, in a way that is natural and logical.
As a result, the works I’ve written so far do not express one single style. It seems that each piece I write requires its own set of stylistic parameters, but at the same time I do strive to write music that has integrity and in which my personal signature is always audible.

My major concern is to write ‘good notes’ (i.e., good harmonies, good melodies, good rhythms, etcetera) which make intuitive sense to the ear. I gather most of my ideas from improvising at the piano. My music often sounds like a spontaneous musical stream, even though my composing does involve a great deal of deliberate organization, construction and ‘montage’. In the end, however, I always let my ear, and not some kind of rational compositional system, decide whether the notes are good or not. I believe compositional systems and intricate rational structures are only useful if they enhance the actual audible result, but not because they look interesting on paper or in the program notes. To me, the most important thing is how a piece actually sounds (and this is often more of an affective judgment rather than a rational one), not how the piece is constructed or how interesting the score looks. I am suspicious of composers who make their music unnecessary complex, putting all kinds of structures and systems in their music no one can hear anyway. If I can say the same thing using complex or simple means, I prefer the simpler solution. Talking about complexity and simplicity in music is misleading, however, because great emotional complexity can already be achieved with very simple technical means and music that’s technically complex isn’t necessarily emotionally complex.

At times my music may hover on the verge of kitsch and banality, but at the same time I’m not interested in presenting only easy-listening to my audience. I do not write my music in order to reach out to a large audience. If it happens to do so, that’s fine with me, but I’m absolutely not consiously aiming for this. I try to write the music I want to write. That music happens to be firmly rooted in (non functional) tonality - although it can sometimes become highly chromatic -, because for my generation of composers which has been brought up and lives with pop, rock, jazz and world music (primarily tonal, diatonic music), tonality is only natural.

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