At the start, I have to say that I am something of a composer groupie. I love writing music and I love the other people who write music, no matter what kind of music they write or when they wrote it. I really believe that I belong to an international community of composers, stretching across all boundaries of time and place, regardless of style or category.
It's not the way we are normally taught to listen. Music and the people who make it can get separated from each other—by time, culture, genre, commerce. It makes it easy for us if all the different kinds of music stay separated. If everything sits neatly in a particular category, it gets much simpler to find the music you already know and to avoid the music you don't. But because I am a composer groupie, I always want to listen to music outside of these categories so I can pay attention to the things that different kinds of music and composers might have in common, and to consider their differences.
collected stories looks at one of music's more universal functions, namely how often music gets called upon to help tell different kinds of stories. What I am particularly interested in is how the act of composing changes depending on what kind of story the composer is trying to tell.
I started thinking about this in the mid-1990s when I was finishing two commissions at the same time. One was a giant grand opera for Santa Fe, an extravaganza with a big cast and chorus and speaking roles and children and ballet dancers. The other was a loud, aggressively static piece for the English post-rock ensemble Icebreaker. As I went back and forth from one composition to the other, I could really feel my approach change. The opera required me to tell a story, to reveal things in such a way that the audience experienced surprise, shock, elation, and sadness. In the opera, everyone experienced those things pretty much at the same time. The static piece was more like an object, an odd thing that changed very slowly. It didn't tell the listeners much about what they should feel or when they should feel it. I began to notice how my job, my skills, my musicality, my aesthetic sense all changed, depending on the needs of the piece in front of me.
collected stories divides the world not by genre or style, but by the various kinds of stories that a piece of music can tell in order to see how the story and the composer work together. The pieces I chose highlight some of the different ways a composer's job changes. But the truth is that everything on this series is music with which I have a long relationship and that I love. All of it. I hope you will too.