This is a question I feel as though I must have been asked at least a hundred times about my music. It could really only have been a handful of times, but it’s a very unnerving question to hear – hence the hyperbole. From some of the music of my peers and my mentors, there seemed to be an overwhelming push for me to be writing “atonally,” or at the very least without such “tonal language.” However, it’s taken a while to see past those influences.
While at Accent12, Claude Baker gave me some incredibly important advice. Firstly, he told me not apologize for my musical language. But he also said that the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms – although temporally far behind us – is still important baggage and we shouldn’t forget or completely divorce ourselves from the rich history of classical music.
I also had the fortune to have a conversation with Stephen Paulus after the premiere of Of Songs and Singing with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. While chatting, he had talked about how he shifted to a more tonal musical language – one that was more comfortable for him. I suppose it just took a while for him to not care so much what everyone else thought.
What I’m getting at is that musical language is very personal. While it is always important to keep listening to and absorbing other music, it is just as important to embrace our own language. In ten years I might be writing in a completely different aesthetic, but right now I know my aesthetic and it is decidedly tonal – and there is nothing wrong with that.
PS: Happy Bastille Day, France!