An Exhibit of the Diehn Composers Room, Old Dominion University Libraries

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From Inspiration to Publication


The Composer Speaks

F. Ludwig Diehn

... My symphony does not go as far afield. Its chief aims are melodic beauty and clarity of form. Form! There is the magic word! It is one of the composer's chief weapons against the boredom of his audience. Try to do nothing but repeat your phrases on and on or bring nothing but new thoughts continuously without connecting them or developing them and you have your audiences yawning after a few minutes. Think of the man who wanted to entertain himself by reading the dictionary from cover to cover but had to give up soon because it changed the subject too often!

F. Ludwig Diehn. Notes on creating symphonic music. F. Ludwig Diehn Collection, Old Dominion University, Diehn Composers Room, Norfolk, VA.

Q: "How do you actually compose?"

A: "Different ways. Sometimes I'll be walking down the street and start singing something that has just come to me. Things often come to me at odd times. ... One of the disciplines I've worked on over the years is to try to let the materials stay for a while in that intuitive state and not try to structure them too quickly. It's like making soup and letting the vegetables just be themselves for quite a long time. They simmer for a while, then finally boil down to what the essential soup will be."

Interview with Meredith Monk [in Geoff Smith and Nicola Walker Smith, New Voices: American Composers Talk About Their Music (Portland, OR: Amadeus P, 1995) p. 186]

George Crumb

Q: "Do you have a [composition] routine?"

A: "I do, but the last two years have been especially slow. I have no rational system at all. I work entirely by ear."

Q: "Through intuition?"

A: "Yes. I've always had the feeling that no super-rational system would deliver the right notes, that these can only resonate in the inner ear. ... There's always a balance between the technical and the intuitive aspects. With all the early composers, all the composers we love, there was always this balance between the two things. But for a time there have been composers who are either dilettantes or university composers. They somehow don't agree that both elements should exist in a composition, which amazes me because, as I see it, that's what all music reflects. We're a civilization that seems to deal only with extremes."

Interview with George Crumb [in Geoff Smith and Nicola Walker Smith, New Voices: American Composers Talk About Their Music (Portland, OR: Amadeus P, 1995) p. 97]

John Cage

"I would group most music as talking, saying something, and I for one am not interested in being spoke to by music. ... I don't like clear messages - they're too intentional. The moment you enter the world of non-sense, you don't know what's being said and so you're free to hear whatever you wish .. or structure yourself differently in relation to it. I don't see any need for theory or laws or government in music or in life. I think we can perfectly well get along with intelligence, in the use of materials and in social relations. By 'intelligence' I mean recognizing the problems and solving them.

John Cage [in Geoff Smith and Nicola Walker Smith, New Voices: American Composers Talk About Their Music (Portland, OR: Amadeus P, 1995) p. 77]

David Nathaniel Baker

Q: "When you sit down to begin a new composition on your own initiative or inspiration, what procedure or approach do you follow?"

A: "First of all, I think about the length of the work ahead of time. I think about what form (or forms) it should take. I think about structure, and what kinds of raw materials I'll use; I find that I'll examine a wealth of raw materials - set systems, rows, jazz and folk materials, etc. - before I ever even think about writing a piece of music. I also try to hear what that piece should sound like in my mind's ear before I ever start to write. ... I think each piece brings with it its own set of imperatives and I never never enter the arena of composition with a whole lot of pre-set notions about what should happen."

David Nathaniel Baker, Jr. [in David N. Baker, et al., The Black Composer Speaks (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow P, 1978), p. 24)

The Drafting Process: Hailstork and Martin's Crispus

Early sketch of "Crispus"
Early draft of "Crispus". Adolphus Hailstork Collection, Old Dominion University, Diehn Composers Room, Norfolk, VA
 
Draft of "Crispus
Draft of "Crispus". Adolphus Hailstork Collection, Old Dominion University, Diehn Composers Room, Norfolk, VA
 
Hailstork and Martin, "Crispus", p. 5-6
Hailstork & Martin, "Crispus", full score, p. 5-6. Adolphus Hailstork Collection,
Old Dominion University, Diehn Composers Room, Norfolk, VA
 
Letter from Herb Martin accompanying early draft
Letter from Herb Martin accompanying second draft

Letters from Herbert Woodward Martin, librettist of "Crispus", to Adolphus Hailstork.


The Drafting Process: Allan Blank's Bicinium III

Allan Blank.  Sketch of "Bicinium III"
Allan Blank. Sketch of "Bicinium III". Allan Blank Collection, Old Dominion University, Diehn Composers Room, Norfolk, VA
 
Allan Blank.  Score of "Bicinium III"
Score of "Bicinium III". Allan Blank Collection, Old Dominion University, Diehn Composers Room, Norfolk, VA
 
Recording of Bicinium III
Recording of Allan Blank's "Bicinium III". Allan Blank Collection, Old Dominion University, Diehn Composers Room, Norfolk, VA


Copyright © 2006 Old Dominion University Libraries
Diehn Composers Room

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