WHY I AM A COMPOSER, AND WHY I COMPOSE AS I DO

I'd like to introduce you to my work as a composer and to give you some idea of what motivates me.

The best music, to me, has always concerned itself with emotions that never go out of style -- love, sadness, pain, longing, fear, transcendence. Listeners respond to emotions because they themselves have them. My compositions are direct and emotive. My sole impulse is to create and promote beauty. I have no interest in ugliness, so I don't write ugly music. I try to compose music that even untrained listeners will find comprehensible, without sacrificing depth or originality. I have never been afraid of melody. I use dissonance as a spice or a foil, never as a default mode. I compose for people, heart to heart.

A lot of my output so far has been chamber music, including songs and solo piano music. I like the intimacy of small groups. Several of my pieces employ instruments that have been underutilized in chamber music-- harp, guitar, alto flute, bass flute, harpsichord, saxophone. Often I put together uncommon groupings of instruments, such as oboe, cello, guitar and piano (Las Meninas: Variations); narrator, four flutes and piano (Land of the Farther Suns); soprano, horn, violin, cello and piano (Songs on the Passage of Time); harpsichord, viola and cello (Atlantic Legend). I also like what the different art forms have to say to one another, and seek to celebrate and further these connections. A few examples of this multimedia emphasis among my works: Las Meninas: Variations (using slides of paintings by Velázquez and Picasso); Land of the Farther Suns (using spoken poems by Stephen Crane); Song of Witness (using sung haiku by inmates of Japanese-American World War II detention camps).

Stylistically, I include and build upon vital American musical currents, including jazz, folk and theater music. I work these elements into textures and forms that have grown out of the European classical tradition. I'm often asked which composers are my favorites, and which ones have influenced my work. Virtually all the great composers are my favorites, and some of the lesser ones as well. As for influences that I can discern, I would list Robert Schumann, Federico Mompou, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Richard Rodgers.

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