A Composer's Adventures

Composer, author and teacher Michael Colgrass
September 27, 2016

A Lion’s Intuition

lion land rover

Years ago I visited South Africa and went on a number of safaris. One day while riding in a Land Rover we saw a lion under a tree panting heavily with his tongue hanging out. I asked if he was suffering from the heat and the guide said no, the lion had just overeaten, because — like all lions — he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from.… Read the rest

Baseball, the Stuff of Life

Bautista

As we reach yet another All-Star Game, I’m reminded how profound baseball really is. And I say that knowing some people consider it a snooze-fest. A friend visiting Toronto from Lebanon was at her first game. Someone asked her in the third inning how she liked it.… Read the rest

My 7-Week Bypass

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Our cat, Sunny.

 

Years ago I heard about a Russian health cure called the ‘twenty-one day rest,’ where an individual submits to 21 days of supervised rest. I thought that was a very sensible and healthy way to clear the body and mind of the effects of excessive activity and prepare the way for a period of concentrated work.… Read the rest

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