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James MacMillan speaks to Carnegie Hall

Vadim Repim—with The Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Charles Dutoit—performs the New York premiere of Scottish composer James MacMillan's Violin Concerto on March 1. The next night, MacMillan is the focus and the star of Making Music: James MacMillan—when he will be on hand for a a full program of his work and to discuss his music with Carnegie Hall Director of Artistic Planning Jeremy Geffen.

He takes time out from his preparations to answer some questions posed by Carnegie Hall.

Carnegie Hall: Many people, in describing your musical output, and have slotted you into various categories—Scottish and Catholic, to name a few. How do you see yourself?

James MacMillan: I see myself as a composer! First and foremost, that is the most important thing. I am also Scottish, a Catholic, a father, a husband, a grandfather, a Glasgow Celtic fan, etc. ...

CH: Can you tell us about your collaboration on Raising Sparks with poet Michael Symmons Roberts?

JM: Michael and I have been good friends for many years, and many of our collaborations grow naturally out of our conversations. However, the poems of Raising Sparks were written before I met him, so it was just a case of me setting his words. It turned out to be the first of many collaborations between us.

CH: Your Violin Concerto receives its New York premiere on March 1 with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Vadim Repin. How is composing for purely instrumental music different than composing for voice?

JM: When there are no words to set, a composer's mind has to return to his abstract instincts. But musical sounds are the natural first language of musicians, so it doesn't matter that there are no words.

CH: When writing, do you have a standard work practice, or is it different every time?

JM: Every new piece feels different. Therefore, there is never a standard feeling about anything I do. I prefer it that way. My work is in a wide range of specifications, and so there is continual variety and freshness in my work practice, or so it feels.

CH: Have you ever been to Carnegie Hall?

JM: I've never been before! I am excited about my first visits.

CH: Thank you, James. We're excited to welcome you here!

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