Music Composers Unite!
To answer this question, you ave to understand what I go through just to turn on the itunes while i slave away playing crossword puzzles online. For me, it is like choosing a paint color for a room in my house. "What if I pick the wrong one, and then I am stuck with it?", or "I don't want to pick a color that is too much like the rest of the colors in the house." You may be wondering "What are you talking about? Just turn on a different song...", or "Who cares what you listen to, listen to whatever you want....dork." That may be fine for you, dear reader, but it is not quite that easy for me.
Listening to music is like food for me. As a composer, my compositions are driven by whatever it is that I am listening to at the time. Almost to a fault. For example, right now I am writing a euphonium concerto that I am hopelessly stuck on. At the beginning of the process, I was listening to a steady stream of Elliott Carter. It wasn't happening. But, now, I am listening to Stravinsky almost exclusively (when I am listening with purpose), and the piece is starting to take shape. If I listen to music that distracts from the mood, genre, or what-have-you, I get stymied. It's crucial that I listen to music that is going to help me stay on target for what I am composing at the time.
It is also important to me to listen with purpose. I always have a reason for listening to music. Most of the time, it is to supplement the poor excuse for orchestration training I have received in music school. If I have a score handy, I ALWAYS look at as I listen. Sometimes I pick up things through osmosis, or by simply listening closely to elements of the music that interest me. I can almost always hear something new no matter how many times I have heard a particular piece.
This may sound simplistic to you. Or, you may think me overly impressionable. The simple fact is, I agonize over what my listening diet is going to be for some strange and unfortunate reason.
So here is what five pieces I am listening to lately (in no particular order), and why:
1. Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, "Sacraficial Dance" - to ascertain how Stravinsky orchestrates his brass to obtain that famous sound of his.
2. Mahler, Symphony No. 5 - Melodic development...'nuff said.
3. Leonard Bernstein, Selections from "Wonderful Town" - I thin one of the best Bernstein musicals, and a masterpiece of form and orchestration.
4. Shostakovich, Symphony No. 11 - Orchestration, pure and simple. (Anyone have the score?)
5. Schoenberg, "Chamber Symphony No. 1", Op. 9)