Artistic Voice

I wrote these words to a dear composer/friend, after having just heard one of his more recent compositions.

Hearing your performance of your music now and knowing your overall catalog as well as I do, distinctions between artistic voice, musical/textual language, and cliché come to mind. In essence, I’m going to write these few words about how composers, improvisers, and performers in general – how we use some of the same sounds, elements, and choices frequently (those musical elements and attitudes that make Mozart identifiable as himself, not as Haydn, etc.), without merely copying ourselves as though warming up leftovers for tonight’s dinner.

Your rhythmic textures, melodic and formal landscapes, and harmonic choices are uniquely yours, even though no singular element does not exist elsewhere. We all create in the context of everything we’ve heard and experienced previously, from others and from ourselves. The legitimate, essential teaching tool of copying the choices of others plays into the creative potential. As I often impress on my voice students, we explore sounds, attitudes, and expressive options by imitating great singers. The big caveat is that we don’t stop there; we find what is authentically our own through this kind of exploration.

Here the quote from Lee Hoiby comes to mind, that there’s still much to be said with triads (in your case, m/M 9th chords and others!).

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