i'd like to respond to the following quote:

"cage, scheonberg, glass, etc seem to believe that one can only create 'new' music by ignoring one's black-box creativity, as that creativity is often simply a mirror of what one hears in the culture within which he has developed."

1. sid thomas once said "if you come up with something that doesn't sound like anything you've ever heard before, it's probably crap."

2. i once had the opportunity to meet john cage while in paris visiting bob drewry who is the contrabassist with the paris symphony orchestra. bob is a fantastic award winning classical musician and at the time was working on a project with john cage (this was probably 1988).

he  played me a scratch recording of the project and showed me the score.

it was a bunch of cacophonous rubbish that reflected the random hen scratchings of the printed page.

after having played the cassette for me he asked for my opinion.
i said "who's paying for this jerk-off session anyway?" he told me that it was the french government and then he told me what he was making for being a part of this project. it was an absolutely obscene amount.

at that point i said "well, don't you think you could give them better value for their money?" he laughed. it was the laugh of irony. it was the laugh of "screw the french government".

then he asked if i wanted to meet john cage "today". i said "hell no!". what would i say to john cage anyway? "you've made a mockery of music" "your shit sucks" "how dare you call that crap art?"

3. i reflected on the "mirror of culture" statement above. the music i like is culture, and it's my culture. if my music is "just" a mirror - then so be it.

i can still come up with an infinity of new musical ideas based on the conventional elements inherent in the styles of music in my "culture". i don't need to break all the rules and annoy everyone to make something new.

sid thomas also said "we all stand on the shoulders of giants". without continuity, heritage and respect for our "fore-brothers" the culture becomes lost.

4. as far as the actual composition process is concerned, i'll often get an intellectual idea while away from an instrument. later when i get a chance to try the idea out on an instrument, i'll find that it needs significant tweaking to get from the realm of theoretically correct possibilities to transform it into true musicality.

the feel i go for is that even if no one has ever written anything quite like it before, it should have the organic quality about it that makes it sound as if it were always meant to exist.

getting that quality of fluidity, naturalness, and conveyance of emotion requires a deep understanding of what makes music music - as opposed to just playing notes that are theoretically correct but in fact are nothing more than sterile finger exercises.

for more on my preferred method of composition, please visit:


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