The biggest thing for me has been bringing artists from different backgrounds together. The classical music community is a wonderful group of people, but it’s a very limited subset of our society. In terms of building a community, I focus on people who are talented artists who have an important message to say, and write music specifically for them, not just write any old string quartet or orchestral music. The main reason I’m a composer is because classical music is one of the only ways that we can tell a more intricate story, and you don’t get in other genres. So, it’s really important to bring it back to people and show all the amazing things that can be done with sound; anybody can get on board with that. With the Pay What You Can is really great though because classical music concerts, especially in New York, and many other cities, are very expensive. It’s not the kind of place that you would go if you were 18 and didn’t have a background in playing the oboe.
I love the “Pay What You Can” model. I remember as a student having to budget for concert tickets. I was thankful that many organizations offered student tickets. After I graduated, though, it became even harder to purchase tickets since I was unemployed and my privileges as a student expired. Some of my friends were also in the same situation. If I had had an opportunity to pay what I could, I wouldn’t have missed out on so much. To answer the question though, each individual person is a part of multiple communities. The decisions we make as artists lead us to form new communities and leave others behind. Being a composer automatically places you in a community with other composers. Being a composer whose primary instrument is the electric guitar places you in a smaller subset of that community, while also placing you within the guitarists’ community. It is not only who we are that defines our communities; it’s also what we do. And ultimately, the more opportunities we take advantage of, the wider our own musical community grows.
I absolutely love that there is no limit to what we can do; there doesn’t seem to be an end to my imagination. Plus, a composer can get better at any stage. Unlike with performing where with an instrument there are physical limits as you get older, it doesn’t seem to be an issue with composers. There are great composers that wrote some of their best work in their late 80s and 90s. That’s inspiring, that’s an amazing incentive. So, I just love that there are endless opportunities to take advantage of, and I feel lucky that I can explore all sorts of things.
I absolutely love that value, that everyone should be able to experience music, regardless of social status and/or economic status. The way that I try to engage with the community is by trying my best to make both myself and the music accessible to everyone. Many people think that they can’t understand classical music, or that it's boring; nothing could be farther from the truth! It can absolutely change your life, it can be the most thrilling thing in the world, the most comforting, the most devastating, the most uplifting. And you really don't need to make it an academic pursuit; if you can understand the Beatles, you can understand Mozart. People need music without knowing it or realizing it, and social or economic status is not a good excuse to keep people from it. Emotions define all lives, and music expresses those emotions intimately and immediately.
I assign each section of the audience a color, and as the piece proceeds, the color of the stage behind the ensemble changes at different times. This signals the audience to begin whispering, and the whispering can therefore move throughout the space, moving from right to left, left to right, etc. It takes on some very interesting sonic dimensions, while at the same time inviting the audience to participate in a really meaningful way in the creation of the piece.