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CC: I know that some composers don't listen to much music at all by other composers. They find it inhibits their own work. Do you listen to music?

DL: Oh, sure. Though I listen to a good deal of music from the 20th and 21st centuries, I also passionately explore music of all periods. Sometime a trip is the impetus, as with a recent summer trip to Denmark (where I explored for the first time the music of Nielsen) or two trips to the Czech Republic (where I explored the music of Martinu and Petr Eben, the latter becoming a friend). As an organist, Bach has always been fundamental and, especially for my spiritual life in music, I am keenly drawn to him and to early music as well (especially many Renaissance composers). Time is the only problem for as much intense listening as I'd like to do. I am fortunate to have had a steady stream of commissions since the early 80s and in order to meet those deadlines while holding a full-time teaching post, I tend to be working all the time. Thus, my listening time is limited. One point that I should make: When I'm working on a piece of a particular genre, I prefer not to listen to a similar work too closely to my own creative process. Not that I think I'll consciously be influenced by what someone else has done, but I believe it's harder to unconsciously escape what someone else has done if you have it actively in your mind's ear.

CC: How does your working process for a new piece generally go? One thing I've noticed is that you tend to finish works far ahead of their deadlines/première dates.

DL: That's pure paranoia! I just don't like to be late for anything. I learned much of this early on from my parents and from Wriston. When I was just a kid in elementary school, Wriston (already in New York) would regularly correspond with me. When I would write back to him, he would punctually reply, usually on the same day that he received my letter. That impressed me. In school I found it especially valuable when professors punctually gave back exams at the next class session. Early on that taught me something valuable about teaching. I've always tried to do the same.

When it comes to composition and punctual delivery dates, there are so many horror stories of composers who have delivered compositions late. It is my belief that the commissioning process should be a positive one for all involved. When a piece arrives late and the performers do not have time to learn the piece, the results wind up reflecting badly on the piece itself when it is premièred. What works for me is to mentally set an earlier due date than the 'official' commission deadline. I've yet to be late for a commission and it's largely because I always plan for that earlier deadline instead of the official deadline. Of course, now having stated that I've never been late, I'll probably wind up being late with my next commission!

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Copyright © 18 January 2005 Carson P Cooman, Rochester, NY, USA


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