"Some composers are quite shy to talk about their work, for obvious reasons: they don’t want to reveal their “tricks”, or they don’t want to share a private or personal inspiration behind a piece, and so on," writes the CUNY Graduate Center Advocate. Not so Martin Bresnick, who in a presentation at Music10 "dove right into the substance of his work: why he composes, how he composes, and what his pieces are all about."
Bresnick, a longtime member of the composition faculty at the Yale School of Music, was a guest composer this year at Music10, a two-week festival of new music at the Hindemith Music Centre in Blonay, Switzerland. The CUNY reporter summarized his presentation in detail. Highlights are reprinted below; click here for the full article.
Bresnick started off quite seriously by admonishing the composers and performers that music is dangerous and powerful, and that one must always treat it as a life and death matter. One must always do music at the highest level; in a sense, he said, being a musician is similar to being called to priesthood.
This philosophy guides Bresnick’s own work. He brings everything he can to his music, to the point that he considers his own artistic aims to be “excessively ambitious.” In his works, he strives to be personally expressive and philosophical, and to create architectonic forms.
That last aim — creating architectonic forms - was one of the recurring themes throughout Bresnick’s presentation. Bresnick said outright at the beginning of his talk that he felt that many of the student composers at Music10 neglected formal integrity in favour of the surface elements of a composition. His point of view provided a nice counterpoint to those of Hartke and Hoffman, who discussed primarily surface elements, such as orchestration, and the important role that intuition plays when they compose. Intuition plays a less significant role in Bresnick’s compositional process, as he does not rely on it when he works out the formal elements of a composition.
This is not to say that the surface of a composition is unimportant to Bresnick — as he put it, “Nobody fell in love with their partner because they have beautiful ribs in their chest!” However, Bresnick urged the composers at Music10 to try to strike a balance in their works between creating a beautiful surface, and ensuring that there is a lasting structure holding that surface up.
The same student journal also discussed Bresnick's work My Twentieth Century in a concert review, calling it "my favourite work of the night."