Having different composition teachers

November 19, 2008

For composers who choose to go the university route, I advocate studying with a variety of composers, and not just sticking with one. In a meeting today, we realized that between our two departments, we have four traditional white American composers, one Japanese American, one from Turkey, another from Lebanon, one from Mexico, and two black composers with feet in jazz and classical music. It occurred to us that if a student got to work with everyone of these people, what an amazing opportunity it would be. Break down the wall of “I only study with new music composition professors” and let students gravitate stylistically where they are most happy. If it’s one, great, if it’s all or none of them, bravo!

I studied with lots of composers, but I don’t sound like a single one of them. I sound like me.

[Illustration: Frontispiece for Charles Dickens’s “The Haunted Man” by John Tenniel (1848)]

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Wolf November 20, 2008 at 12:55 am


You write that “students gravitate stylistically…”: an exciting aspect of composition today is that one does gravitate into the styles, aesthetics, and foci of ones work, rather than having that largely pre-determined by the circumstances of ones birth. While a diversity of biographical backgrounds is both good and necessary, more important is the diversity of aesthetic and stylistic concerns. Does you faculty include anyone who represents the American experimental tradition, for example?

Roger Bourland November 20, 2008 at 6:24 am

We lost Elaine Barkin when she retired. Four of us have gone throught the experimental thing but not anymore. We leave that to CalArts, UCSC, UCSD, and UC Berkeley.

Daniel Wolf November 20, 2008 at 8:13 am


CalArts, yes, but UCSC has no experimental composers since Mumma retired, UCSD’s experimental years are way in the past, in the days of Erickson and Oliveros, and UCB has never had an experimental composer on the faculty. The closest one comes in the entire UC system might be Clarence Barlow in Santa Barbara.

What do you mean by “going through the experimental thing”?

Brad Wood November 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Peripherally apropos: a book by David Bernstein about the S.F. Tape Music Center* is reviewed by Stephen Brown in the Nov. 7 Times Literary Supplement (“TLS”).

In fact that TLS issue has many fine things, including a review by Charles Rosen of a book on piano performance practice by Kenneth Hamilton, “After the Golden Age”, and Ian Bostridge’s assessment of volume 4 of Britten’s collected letters.
*ISBN 978 0 520 24892 2

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