Intimate Conversations: Thoughts on Loretta Notareschi’s String Quartet OCD and Stephen Bailey’s Love Story

A few months ago I had the privilege of hearing Denver composer Loretta Notareschi’s String Quartet OCD performed by the Playground Ensemble at Regis University. As I sat in the concert hall and watched the composer approach the podium – about to deliver a prepared talk as a preface to a panel discussion of postpartum […]

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Fear, Pride, Discourse, and the Emerging Composer: Some Thoughts on Mark Applebaum’s “Existential Crises”

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Question_MarkA few months ago I read an article by Mark Applebaum called “Existential Crises in Composition Mentorship and the Creation of Creative Agency.” In addition to exploring many other topics, Applebaum suggests that faulty self-perception – a lack or excess of self-confidence – can negatively impact a composer’s development and the quality of the music he or she writes.[1] These claims caught my attention because some of my own teachers in both composition and performance have made similar comments; I have often heard professors remark that a timid individual would achieve more if they had greater self-confidence, or that an overly-confident person needs to develop some healthy self-doubt in order to improve. Applebaum’s article provided me with an opportunity to reflect more deeply on this subject, and to question how such problems should be addressed.

Applebaum suggests that fearful and prideful attitudes both have the potential to thwart an…

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How do you hear new music? Three lessons in creative listening from St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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St. Thérèse rosesby Sarah Perske

Sometimes insights turn up in the most unlikely places; I’ve stumbled across intriguing ideas that apply to new music in the writings of poets, novelists, philosophers, and – in the present case – the autobiography of a 19th century nun. Consider the following odd story about the act of listening told by St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

“For a long time I had to kneel during meditation near a Sister who could not stop fidgeting; if it was not with her rosary, it was with goodness knows what else…I wanted to turn around and glare at the culprit to make her be quiet, but deep in my heart I felt that the best thing to do was to put up with it patiently, for the love of God first of all, and also not to hurt her feelings…In the end, I tried to find some way of…

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Means, ends, and “the law of the gift:” What should I write, how should I write it and…why am I doing this?

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by Sarah Perske

After reading a bunch of articles about the writing process in connection with my writing center job this year, I was inspired to embark on a yearlong obsessive inquiry into the composing process. I searched for language to demystify the compositional thought process, tested different working methods, and tried to develop personal solutions to the age-old problems of procrastination, “composer’s block,” and indecisiveness.

When I discussed some of these explorations with my colleagues a few weeks ago, Stephen Bailey made the comment that for him, the question of “what” to write is more important than “how” to go about it, and that thinking too much about the “how” without enough attention to the “what” yields poor musical results. In other words, as Stephen pointed out more recently, “the process is usually less important than the result.” I agreed with him – and sent Nathan Cornelius into fits…

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