Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"What Kind of Music Do You Write?"

I don't seem to have time to do concerts these days so sometimes I explain this by saying I compose. But that opens the door to them asking "what kind of music do you write"?


Ok, I don't usually literally scream out loud like that. What I do is get a very perplexed look on my face. You see this is a really terrifying question, even worse than the 'centipedal' question that so troubled Glenn Gould. He related to an interviewer once the story of the centipede standing by the road one day when a passer-by asked him: "you have so many different feet; when you start walking, which one do you start with"? Well, this question so perplexed the centipede that he froze trying to figure it out, fell over into the ditch and died. The lesson from Gould's point of view is that you should not think too closely about technical details, but just let the fingers do their stuff.

A similar question comes from someone you know, but who missed your last concert. They sometimes ask, "how was the concert"? A lot of different answers come to mind. In order of plausibility/humor:
  1. Great!
  2. Well-paying!
  3. About 90 minutes long.
  4. Shouldn't you ask someone who was in the audience?
That's not a perplexing question, just annoying.

But "what kind of music do you write?" is both perplexing and just slightly annoying. Here are some possible answers:
  1. Just like Bach, only better!
  2. Just like Bach, only up-to-date!
  3. Music tortured by my own inadequacy?
  4. Non-commercial music!
  5. Unpopular music!
  6. Just like Chopin, but with a back-beat!
The only reasonable answer would be "classical music", but since what I write fulfills neither of the definitions I usually use: "music written during the Classical Era (1770 - 1827)" or "music that has stood the test of time", I can't see saying that. But it is the only answer that would be easily understood. I have decided to answer the question in the following way and see how that works out:

"I'm an amiable miniaturist."

To those readers that are now shaking their heads pityingly, let me say that I am going to put up a couple of recordings of my compositions as soon as I figure out how to convert the files. But I have put up the scores to a couple of pieces, here and here. See what I mean? Amiable miniaturist...


Wen said...

Hey Bry,

I already have the albums you gave me converted to MP3 (your right up there on my selection list with Prince while I'm in my studio:) Anyway, if you want me to send you any of those, I'd be happy to do so.

Bryan Townsend said...

Much appreciated and I do want to put up some of those tracks. But what I need is to convert a couple of recording of concert performances of my compositions into blogger-friendly formats.

RG said...

"Wannabe classical" music.

Bryan Townsend said...

That's too self-deprecating even for me!