Artistic Philosophy

My compositional voice melds strands from many in the European classical tradition —  Debussy, Britten, Verdi, and Brahms, in particular — along with 20th century American composers such as Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Thelonius Monk, and my own teacher, George Crumb.  In my work I strive to create a sense of journey. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that every composition ought to have a compelling internal story  — with a climactic point at its center — that speaks to an audience.

Having studied in Indonesia — and also having taught Balinese Gamelan for over twenty years — I am often asked how Gamelan influences my music.  There are many overlapping answers.  I have certainly absorbed Balinese textures, rhythms, and melodic structures.  Less obvious, perhaps, are the cultural lessons. One example: in Bali, Gamelan is a potent social force, a community gathering point where there is little distinction between performers and audience. Emulating that model, I try to create music befitting its circumstances: music that is well designed for its intended performers and accessible — yet engaging — for its anticipated audience. Another example: most Balinese musicians maintain a fierce faith in the continued power of traditional forms and practices. For them, imaginative new music embraces ancient tradition: not as an impediment to creativity, but rather as a spur, a means of engaging with and ameliorating the modern world’s chaos. Thus, my Indonesian experience, perhaps paradoxically, encourages me to seek out sustenance from my own classical training.