Lee Hoiby Quote

Lee Hoiby

Lee Hoiby was born in 1926. He is an Amer­i­can clas­si­cal pianist and com­poser, prob­a­bly most famous for his song “The Ser­pent.” I found the fol­low­ing quote from him, cour­tesy his Wikipedia entry, and it’s thought-provoking. He com­pares com­pos­ing to arche­ol­ogy, stating:

For me, com­pos­ing music bears some like­ness to arche­ol­ogy. It requires patient dig­ging, search­ing for the trea­sure; the abil­ity to dis­tin­guish between a trea­sure and the rock next to it and rec­og­niz­ing when you’re dig­ging in the wrong place. The arche­ol­o­gist takes a soft brush and brushes away a half-teaspoon at a time. Musi­cally, that would be a few notes, or a chord. Some­times the brush­ing reveals an espe­cially lovely thing, buried there for so long.”

I won­der, though. Isn’t that being a lit­tle too care­ful? I under­stand his point of view, but it’s okay to be messy when you are being cre­ative. In the end, I think the com­poser does have to reign in his messi­ness and give shape and form to his ideas.

It reminds me a lit­tle of sculp­ture. With mar­ble, you chip away until the form is revealed. With clay, you add and shape until the piece is finished.

Which kind of com­poser are you?

About Richard D. Russell

This was written by Richard D. Russell, New York City based composer of fine music.