Yes, there is musical life after your 20s!
What is the cut-off for being a “young composer”? Everyone defines that line a little differently, but I’m in my mid-30s, and in my case anyway, I certainly feel like I’ve moved onto the next thing.
This transition is more a state of mind than anything else. Over the past few years, when I’ve found myself in young composer settings, I’ve gotten that awkward feeling of being somewhere you no longer belong, like when you visit your old high school a few years into college.
Also, much to my amazement, I’ve found myself confronted on occasion by composers younger than me asking for career advice. Thinking back on the past few years, I suppose I did learn a few things that would have been useful to my 20-something self. So in the spirit of paying it forward, here are some reflections on composing after young-composer-hood.
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Painting of Niccolo Machiavelli
I am currently reading the very interesting 48 Laws of Power, which is sort of an updated version of Machiavelli’s controversial work but with a modern perspective. I started thinking, becoming a world-renowned composer is a process not unlike overthrowing a medieval princedom, so what would Machiavelli’s advice be to young 21st-century composers?
So moral judgment cast aside, a blatantly careerist approach to becoming a composer. And naturally, none of this has anything to do with music. (more…)
A self-help guide to becoming a composer
In the first part of this article, I talked about some of the problems with studying composition in academia, and I offered some alternative ways that composers might cultivate their craft more effectively (and probably less expensively too). Here, I’m providing a sort of Top 10 list of life lessons for composers. Realizing that you have no reason whatsoever to listen to my advice, I’m trying to couch this in terms of wisdom I have received from others or that I can back up somehow, with attribution when possible. This is by no means comprehensive, but these are definitely issues that I think every composer needs to internalize for themselves in one way or the other. (more…)
The challenges of learning composition in academia
I’ve always said that I learned despite my education and not because of it, and after my master’s degree I decided to put my money where my mouth was and not pursue a PhD—much to my relief, the commissions and composing continued anyway. A few months ago I read a great article in Slate by William Pannapacker that really struck home for me. The basic premise was not that new: universities are making themselves irrelevant in the humanities, arts, and sciences. What was refreshing, however, was that this wasn’t an anti-intellectual rant, it was just an honest examination of what higher education as an institution is trying to do and how it thinks it should fit into society. So what if your goal is to be the best composer possible and to have your music heard by other people who are interested in similar types of music? Should you get a degree in composition? (more…)