Musicians as servants

September 25, 2006

Musicians have in centuries past been more servants than promethean super stars. I just received a handsome commission for a work for mandolin, cello, and piano. Like with EMILY, I’m going to buy a mandolin, learn to play it, and then write the piece.

For some reason, I came away from my college education thinking that writing gebrauchsmusik was “beneath us.” We certainly wouldn’t want to turn into a Paul Hindemith-type composer who has a sonata for virtually every combination––but why? All composers have written gebrauchsmusik, the only ones who haven’t are the ones with the Prometheus complex. I’m happy to take on an earth-bound commission like this. With this one, a husband wishes to offer up a 40th anniversary present for “putting up with me all these years.” This commission has an additional twist: I’m to have the piece recorded so that he can give it to her as an anniversary gift. It’s not for them to play. I’ll be giving them a piece of music, not unlike selling a painting––something they can hold and keep and hear at the press of a button. What fun!

Thanks to Susan for recommending me to these people. (“My favorite composer who writes music that people actually like.”)

[Painting: “Quarreling Musicians” by George de La Tour (1625-30)]

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