Write something joyful!

The other night I was at a composer’s forum where the guest of honor was 2004 Pulitzer Prize win­ner Paul Moravec. We were all hav­ing a great exchange, and the sub­ject of fast and slow music came up. I pointed out that when­ever I go to a con­cert of new music, it’s a lit­tle unusual to hear “fast” music. We dis­cussed why this is. My the­ory is that com­posers all feel they must probe the depths of their being, exam­in­ing the dark tea-time of their souls, and aim only for pro­fun­dity. After all, we want to be taken seri­ously, don’t we?

What com­posers today for­get is that there is more to human exis­tence than just this! From time to time, hope­fully we feel light­ness, hap­pi­ness, and joy. Mozart, Beethoven, Bar­tok, The Bea­t­les: they all wrote both happy and sad music, among many other emotions.

Paul Moravec cap­tured this thought per­fectly. He asked, “What music writ­ten since World War II is joy­ous? Where is our con­tem­po­rary “Ode to Joy?”

Art is sup­posed to reflect the human con­di­tion. With­out a doubt, the human con­di­tion in the 20th Cen­tury has been rather piti­ful. But let’s not for­get: Art also ele­vates and illu­mi­nates. Don’t for­get all the pos­si­bil­i­ties you can compose.

About Richard D. Russell

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