Ravel checks in

July 8, 2009

Young Maurice Ravel

My Dear Rufus

I heard your preview aria from your new opera and am quite pleased at your new direction.

Might I remind you to please not be overly influenced by Philip Glass, and his habit of getting “stuck” in one register when composing for the keyboard. Look at the piano music I have written and especially Claude’s brilliant Preludes. In fact, I encourage you to set aside some time to compose your own set of preludes, much like Billy Joel did.

I hope that your entire opera does not “hover” as much as this little jewel does. I encourage you to explore textures that you have never worked in. Learn how to compose a scherzo; a vivace section, like Vivaldi would; a gripping allegro; a captivating fugato (I don’t care about fugues for the most part), but especially get away from the omnipresent homophonic writing that exemplifies so much of your attempts at bridging classical music. You have a terrific sense of melody and harmony, but only a so-so sense of counterpoint. Learn how to make harmonic motion turn into a sea of individual voices. Discover other strong textures besides the Kleinian “wall of sound.”

Critics may tar you with the same brush that they did with Claude’s “Pelleas” — complaining about a lack of action. Be strong, my boy, be strong. Don’t let good reviews get you fat, and bad reviews get you down. Trust your momentum.

Best of luck with the premieres of your new opera. A very exciting time, indeed!


Maurice Ravel

PS: And I love the new beard!

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