Composer Mark Abel was recently interviewed via email by the arts-heavy, Chicago-based online magazine Stay Thirsty about his Cave of Wondrous Voice recording on Delos. Read an excerpt of the review below and see the full piece on the Stay Thirsty Magazine:
Q: Elemental truths.
A: Develop a moral and philosophical base that informs your aspirations as an artist.
Understand that most who stray from those principles experience an accompanying decline in the quality of their “content.”
Acclaim for one’s work is nice, but in the end only you can judge whether you’re clearing the credibility bar you should be setting for yourself.
With each new project, try to pose a fresh challenge to your abilities.
Music should make people think; if you can manage that, you’ll be lifting them up in an important way – which is the goal of all art worth its name.
Q: Illuminating texts.
A: This is a mysterious subject, since texts have a way of sparking different musical interpretations – even if most people could agree on their literary meaning. In the end, one can only pay attention and give shape to what arises spontaneously in a composer’s mind when confronted with text. Trying to mold the words into a somewhat preconceived musical architecture is never a good idea.
Q: Musical ideas.
A: … It’s handy to have a wide palette of idioms and interests to draw from. This applies to me, even though the vastness of that palette – which included lengthy affairs with both rock and jazz – delayed by many years my eventual emergence as a composer with a discernible style. The good news is that I found a way over time to synthesize the earlier influences and work those results into my “classical” compositions in an organic and often-unnoticed fashion. … Some reviewers recognize the ingredients in my “stew” while others do not. One critic wrote recently: “To me, this is straight-ahead classical music, albeit not easy to describe in terms of possible stylistic influences.” I guess I must be doing something right!
Q: Reverie about interior life.
A: Anyone motivated to pursue “the art life” (as David Lynch would say) probably has one! Since your best and most original ideas will always spring from this source it’s essential to protect, nurture and develop it. If you lose touch with it, you will be in big trouble as a creator. My greatest fear about the direction this society is going centers on what I call the “hijacking” by Internet-based agents of people’s capacity for independent thinking. Over the last 20 years this has done a lot of damage to the arts by lowering consumers’ standards and narrowing their fields of interest to only areas with which they are already familiar. In the long run, the “hijacking” is a recipe for societal collapse.