My Attitude Problem

Rakowski, David

Like most composers I know, I write idiosyncratically, changing my methods, kinds of pitch references, and overall view of form from piece to piece depending on the circumstances, ensemble, and materials. In general, I write contextually and from left to right; how I decide on what to do at any given moment depends on gestalt, voice-leading, and (by definition) context. The music tends to be either quite fast or rather slow, without a lot of gradations in between. I have learned a lot about compositional craft and continuity from listening to and studying the musics of Brahms, Berg, Bartok, and Martino, and I think the influences are easy to hear; there is also a strong presence of jazz harmony and funky, driving rhythms, according to some people who know what those words mean. I consciously follow what I understand to be a tension-and-release model, and strive for clear phrases and formal articulations: things start simple, accumulate, get more complicated, catch fire, and release tension with a big gesture to begin another structural section. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess what the heck I am doing. One thing I hardly ever do is compose from the outside in or the inside out formulaically. There are rarely predetermined formal schemes posing as vessels in wait for the right materials to fulfill their needs; nor do I use fractal models in which everything in the small is reflected in the same way in larger formal levels. I pretty much move from moment to moment, left to right, shaping the piece and keeping as much in memory as I can, so that in the small and large it makes sense and makes a good story, at least for me. Rather than continuing to ramble on with vague and banal generalities, I'm going to take an informal look at a piece of mine and try to give a sense of how and why I wrote it, and follow how my thinking about the piece evolved as it took shape.



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Columbia University
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April 14, 2015