About the Music

Resurrection-of-Realism_1_About the Music, and

The Case for a Return to Tradition in Classical Composition

Although this point may seem irrelevant (speaking above of “erudition”, which has, on occasion, been known to entail academic jealousies and politics), I also think a composer’s personal attitude toward life and toward others is creatively important. The superior or haughty attitude I have sometimes encountered in contemporary music circles can act like a toxin to shrivel a spirit of open-hearted, childlike wonder, especially in composition students who feel coerced to conform. Only with that spirit of wonder can one hope to compose genuinely moving music. Only with such a spirit can one find beauty rather than an empty display of one’s craft, or can one recognize when utter simplicity would be more powerful than complexity for its own sake. A grateful attitude of humility and kindness, then, may not endear one to the intelligentsia, but it may actually be the sensibility most crucial for a true artist to see the beauty in the world and to convey it to others with imagination, love, and a natural, transcendent voice.

Finally, long before concerns about social justice and historical inequities were in the headlines, I had always hoped, in principal, to write music that does speak globally and inclusively to the human heart across all boundaries and all cultures. So, imagine my happy surprise to learn that on the Spotify streaming service alone, people on six continents in over eighty countries have already, of their own choice, been downloading and repeatedly enjoying my last album! And so far, they have done so a third of a million times! I wondered how this could be, when the usual “contemporary classical” album typically enjoys fewer than fifty listeners (and most of those just being polite, as friends or family of the composer or performers). I see this as proof that regardless of its origin or heritage, some music can have qualities common to all forms of music that speak across cultural boundaries — tonality, melody, and emotion, to name a few. 

Notice, crucially, that tonality, melody, and emotion are actually what is universal to all forms of world music, not academic contrivances such as self-conscious style hybrids that mix European atonal music with African drums and Chinese gongs. While these weird hybrids, which to me are like putting sushi on a pizza, are touted in the ivory tower as some newly sophisticated “inclusiveness”, the truth is that people who actually use African drums and Chinese gongs hate this hybrid music as much as Westerners do. So, such music is simply not “inclusive” or “diverse”, however much that may be asserted as its intention. It’s just another new outfit for the Emperor. That is why people in countries like Malaysia, Bangladesh, Qatar, Iceland, Ghana, Tunisia, Dominican Republic, Maldives, Belarus, Bahrain, Suriname, and Vanuatu are streaming my music, and not theirs.  

I have always hoped to leave the world, both at home and beyond, a more beautiful place than I found it, and for more than just a few academic specialists. However, as a musician, I ask myself what I can possibly do to make the world a better place. I may not have an impact upon the masses, but perhaps I can hope to impart a little beauty that enhances the lives of at least a decent number of other people. Perhaps I can hope to add some excellent music to the regularly performed repertoire, beyond my own lifetime. I don’t know. In any case, words are inadequate to say how humbled I have been to learn that my music is enriching the lives of at least some people all over the world, entirely of their own initiative, and how grateful I am for the affirmation and global endorsement, not only of my work but of tonality, melody, and emotion generally that it can represent, as a future pathway for other composers.