Sure, you can compose…

Garry Trudeau

…but can you hear?

I thought of that as I read the Octo­ber 14, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone mag­a­zine. There’s a rare inter­view with Doones­bury car­toon­ist Garry Trudeau. He describes his early days as an art stu­dent at Yale.

One of my first teach­ers at Yale was Richard Lytle. I waltzed into his draw­ing class with the bravado of a fresh­man art jock who thought he was going to make an impres­sion on his pro­fes­sor, and I did. I whipped off the usual kind of draw­ings I was accus­tomed to mak­ing, some­what effort­lessly. One day, after about three weeks of this non­sense, we were work­ing from a model, and he came over to my draw­ing board and ripped the draw­ing I was work­ing on into pieces in front of the class. “Yes, yes, I know you can draw,” he said. “But what I want to find out is if you can see.” He wasn’t going to put up with this sort of facile art-student sketch­ing that I had taken such pride in ‚Äî he wanted me to do the hard work of actu­ally look­ing at what I was drawing.

I see (er, “hear”) the aural equiv­a­lent all the time. Com­posers who are quite facile at com­pos­ing and get­ting lots of notes down on paper, but have they actu­ally heard what they’ve com­posed? Have they taken the time to lis­ten to its effects, what it com­mu­ni­cates? A com­poser should always take a moment to dig a lit­tle deeper, to delve under the sur­face, and actu­ally hear.

The full inter­view can be found by click­ing here.

About Richard D. Russell

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