A Composer's Adventures

Composer, author and teacher Michael Colgrass
August 26, 2015

In the Line of Fire

(Pablo Helguera.)

(Pablo Helguera.)

I think most musicians would agree that orchestra auditions are nerve-wracking. The juries expect perfection and may be seeking particular musical qualities the player is unaware of.  It’s also tricky for juries because they have little way of knowing how a player will work out in the orchestra, musically or personally.… Read the rest

Buttons and Panels

Gandhi

How can you adjust emotionally to difficult people in a work setting? Such moments can occur between conductor and player or between two musicians in rehearsal to the point of interfering with the performance. Musicians are by nature sensitive people, particularly prone to being affected by conflicts.… Read the rest

Creating from the Muscle

handmusic

A music lover who liked my orchestration for large ensembles asked how I do it: “Is there a way to combine instruments for particular effects?” Thinking it over, I realized my knowledge of orchestration is not intellectual and easily explained. It is stored in my muscles — my arms, shoulders, chest and viscera.… Read the rest

You Goofed—So Ignore It

MichaelColgrassTivoli1964

Me performing at Tivoli in Copenhagen, 1964.

We classical musicians are so rigorously trained that we feel extremely self-conscious about making mistakes in performance. Most of us find it difficult to forgive ourselves for playing a wrong note or rhythm, and missing an entrance is tantamount to a felony.… Read the rest

The Musical Ensemble of the Future

The University of Washington Wind Ensemble. (Joanne DePue)

The University of Washington Wind Ensemble. (Joanne DePue)

I’m fortunate to have found a world that is interested in new music — commissioning it, refining it and turning out great performances. It is the world of wind ensembles that are flourishing in most of our larger universities and colleges.… Read the rest

Musicians Gave Birth to My Goldberg Variations

Goldberg Cover

Some years ago I surprised my wife Ulla on her birthday by writing a chamber ensemble arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The principal players of the Toronto Symphony gathered at our house to rehearse it in preparation for an evening performance.… Read the rest

“You Do It!”

beethoven3

Years ago I got stuck when writing my wind ensemble work Winds of Nagual. I hammered at it for three days and finally jumped up from the drawing board, threw down my pencil and growled, “You do it!” and I stormed out of my studio.… Read the rest

Letters From Children

Colgrass Student

Over the years I have received many letters from children and I find their directness very stimulating. Their letters are on my website (www.michaelcolgrass.com) along with my answers. A while back I got a particularly interesting letter from a 14-year-old girl that ties in with my last blog about music education in our schools.… Read the rest