Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tower in the Ivory Tower

This week is our annual Music of the 21st Century festival. The guest composer this year is Joan Tower, long-time composition professor at Bard College and former member of Da Capo Chamber Players. Yesterday many of my students were complaining about preparing her music, especially the very-wet-behind-the-ears First Year students. So I tried to give them a cold splash of reality, pointing out that unknown does not equal crappy. So many students come to school assuming they know almost everything there is to know about music, and just need a little polishing. With that attitude, they then think that anything new, anything they had never heard of before, must not be worthy of knowing. Fortunately most of these students outgrow this attitude, with or without the Mallet of Loving Correction. Those that don't learn to embrace the new end up unhappy as a musician and often unhappy in life. Because it isn't just about being comfortable with atonality. I expose my students to new ideas about music and new pieces of music so they will become life-long learners, whatever the subject may be that they are learning about.

Tomorrow I am moderating a public discussion with Joan Tower, as I do every year with the guest composer. I always take the opportunity to ask some questions of my own before calling on the audience. I plan to ask her about her views on the current state of the classical music industry, teaching composition, and why combining text with music is so unappealing for her. Let me know if there are any burning questions you would ask Joan Tower if you were here. And for my DePauw readers, please come and ask questions tomorrow. 11:30 in Thompson Recital Hall.

1 comment:

Bruce Hodges said...

No questions for the esteemed Ms. Tower, but just a vote of confidence for "unknown does not equal crappy." There's a ton of music out there that isn't performed frequently, which begs the question: How can you be sure that something you haven't heard won't become one of your favorites?

We have all gotten to know pieces for the very first time at some point--things we eventually grow to love after repeated listening. I hope some of your students have that experience with Tower's music, but if not, at least they can say they gave it a shot. In the meantime, good luck with the festival.