Monday, January 28, 2013

Rorem on Composing and “The Flash” -- CONCORA Presents "Modern Masters"

On February 10, CONCORA, the all-professional choir in which I sing, will mark the 100th birth anniversary of English composer Benjamin Britten, and the 90th birthday of American composer Ned Rorem, with a concert of “Modern Masters.” You can read more about the program, see the repertoire list, and read some of my program notes, by clicking here:
(At that page, scroll down to see the earlier posts.)

Details about the concert:
CONCORA presents “Modern Masters”
Monday, February 11, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
South Church, 90 Main St., New Britain, 06051
General admission $25, students $10.
(860) 293-0567

While doing the research for the program notes for this concert, I found a wonderful interview by Bruce Duffie with Ned Rorem, dating from 1986. In their conversation, Rorem (pictured) shared some fascinating insights about music, society, and the art of composing.

Rorem’s music is very beautiful. CONCORA’s Artistic Director Richard Coffey has a way with Rorem’s music – come and hear.

Bruce Duffie: Is writing music fun?

Ned Rorem: … It’s more than fun; it’s infinitely satisfying. I think any composer would concur that in spite of the fact that artists sometimes wrongly have the reputation for being disequilibriated, eccentric, and abnormal, in the long run they are the most well-balanced of people. When you are writing music, or doing anything creative — this doesn’t just go for me or anybody good; it can go for children in therapy classes making clay pottery — your mind is not so much on your own body, feeling sorry for yourself, or on the one hand thinking about sex or on the other hand thinking about food or on the third hand thinking about pains in your leg or headaches. You are outside of time and space during the moment that you’re writing music, so that when people talk about inspired writing — which is what laymen love to hear about — a so-called inspiration comes in a flash and lasts for about a flash. That flash illuminates some truth or other, which you spend the next year trying to recapture in notes or verbs or oils. You remember it, you reconstruct it, but the flash can’t last. If it lasted, you would be a psychopathic maniac, but I don’t think that anybody has more than four or five of those flashes in their whole life.

BD: Is that a part of being an artist, that you can recognize the flashes when they come?

NR: Yeah. Everybody has flashes. ... Everyone has moments of illumination, and everybody is inspired. There are many people who are just as inspired as artists, and those same people can be even a good deal more intelligent than certain great artists, but the artist is like anybody else, only more so. Or, put another way, he is like anybody else, but nobody else is like him. He is able to take these truths — which can be small truths or big ones, but they’re nevertheless truths — and make other people see their truth in his truth. That’s the only way we can appreciate a work of art. It’s like saying, “Yes, I recognize something of myself in this.” I was at the Art Institute earlier today, and I passed a lot of pictures that I’ve known for many, many years, which are masterpieces, but sort of left me cold because I didn’t feel like looking at them. I can choose the time I take to look at a picture, but I can’t with a piece of music. You can look away from the picture; you can’t listen away from a piece of music. You’re stuck with it until it’s over.
Here’s the link to the full interview:

Do go and read the whole thing; Rorem has a complex and vital intelligence, erudite and earthy and essential.

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