It’s 90 out, and there are heat advisories and stagnant air warnings, so I’m holed up on the laptop in a library. Fortunately the extensive libraries on campus are air-conditioned, and empty, even though it’s the start of summer quarter. Thanks to living above the 40th parallel, the hot part of the day hits around 3 p.m., so I’ve got a few hours until it begins to cool.

Interesting post over on Kyle Gann’s blog about encounters and lessons with big-name composers. Given my weird background (I hadn’t had any formal composition study until grad school, so I was self-taught and used to being on my own), and the fact that I’m really shy in real life, lessons with guest composers have been less-than-fruitful. (With the exception of Annie Gosfield. Wonderful person, and great composer.)

Most have been merely annoying. But my first such encounter was nightmarish. I wasn’t used to how such things worked, and she was from a different generation (and culture), where teachers are more authoritative than they are here. Combine this with a shy Master’s student in her first semester, who wasn’t used to either being able to compose openly or actually show her works without reprisal, it was a recipe for disaster. Now I’m used to thanking their time, and getting on with my life. But then I took her comments way too personally, and it was at least a semester before I could try showing work to anyone not my teacher.

But the update to the post made me rethink the value of such things: that these meetings might be of more value to the guest composer, not the students. (Of course it’s making the Catholic guilt kick in.) It’s also the student/teacher relationship at its best–the exchange isn’t always one way. The times I’ve looked at people’s compositions, it’s been a profoudly humbling moment to be able to share in their development and their music.

I wonder if some of the god-complex in one comment isn’t a front for something else. It’s a weirdly uncomfortable situation to be the center of attention, with all the focus on your music. Like John Rahn writes (heat-stroke, dazed paraphrase), art is a personal thing. You’re already exposed, but moreso with one’s music being discussed. It’s akin to discussing your beliefs, while being stark naked. Maybe the god-complex is a method of protection?


~ by Jen on June 27, 2006.

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