My first composition professor was a brilliant, generous, and patient man. In those early undergraduate days, my music came solely from my ear and gut, without serious regard for structure or development, As a result, most of my pieces were around five pages long. In every lesson, my teacher would point out the holes in the music I had brought him, and I would listen carefully.
By the time I reached my senior year, I learned to trust my ear as my last, best critic, but no longer relied on my gut for guidance. My pieces had become longer and more substantial, and my teacher was encouraged. But I still had technical deficiencies, and I was now painfully aware of them.
Because I was taking English as a minor, and had a lit requirement left, I signed up for a seminar in Romantic Fiction. While we were studying Rousseau’s autobiography, The Confessions, I told the professor how strongly I identified with Rousseau’s need to express himself musically. She was intrigued. She was also an imaginative instructor, one who wanted to see how well we understood the romantic nature of the books we had read. And so, our final projects had to involve a conversation with the characters.
I wrote a one act play. If was five pages long.
The professor gave it back to me with a seven-page critique.
When I saw the mound of yellow legal paper, the first thing I said was, “Oy.” And then I read them, and re-read them.
She had written a line-by-line analysis of the play, pointing out where the dialogue stiffened, where it faltered, where it sang, and where I had missed opportunities to develop the story through it. And then she added the most extraordinary comment: “Maybe composers need to know this, too….”
I went back to the composition I was writing and pored over it for holes. And this time, I saw all of them, even the tiny ones, and knew how to fill them in.
But, of course, there’s more….
Causes Barbara Froman Supports
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Lawyers for the Creative Arts