By MVA artist Lynn Ferrillo
I’m a weaver who loves to listen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra out at Tanglewood. I remember at one concert two of the works were by living composers. Stylistically, they related. What was different was the way they described their new works to their audience beforehand. At our craft shows we try explain our art to our visitors, and so I understood very well where both were coming from.
The younger of the two composers wrote extensive program notes and delivered a 20 minute talk before the dress rehearsal. During his talk he described what had been a lot of back and forth going on in his mind over the course of the work’s development. The commission requirement from the orchestra was minimal — 10 minutes in length max, and allegro in character. He cast around and around for ideas.
Ultimately, he resorted to a small science breakthrough his librettist had recently read in the news. The news article gave him the rhythmic underpinnings for the piece, several motifs, and prompted the title, but to me did not seem to relate to him personally. He had a tool chest full of musical forms, and he used this mastery to finish. Comparing his project to the visual arts, I could tell he was accurately and fully explaining how the pieces of the creative puzzle fell into place.
The older, more established composer did not deliver a talk, and he wrote minimal program notes. “I am frequently asked to comment about my work,” he wrote, “but I really don’t like to do so because I feel it will impede the listener’s own interpretation and enjoyment of the piece. This recent work of mine explores… (some stylistic feature, I forget).” About two sentences.