20 May 2018

Also for next month's Triad concerts

Agnus Dei

Among much else of value which I learned in Judith Shatin’s studio at UVa, two phrases of Judith’s have stuck with me through succeeding decades: “business as usual,” and “something specific.” “Business as usual” meaning, an artistic laziness in doing, without consideration, what one (or others) have already done – a condition diligently to be avoided, in either fact or appearance. And “something specific”: to create something definite, some thing-in-itself, and for my reasons – which I am both at liberty, and under a profound obligation, to determine.

The challenge and opportunity of writing an unaccompanied Mass thus consisted in making it Henningmusick, despite the fact that the text has been treated (and the endeavor has been achieved) a thousand times in the past, by hundreds of others.

This does not preclude availing myself of the example of the past literature, nor does it deny me the pleasure of writing for voices in a way which choristers find gratifying to sing (I hope). The composer can find his own voice, and nevertheless speak a language comprehensible to others. The joy in the craft, is expressing something which is clear and strong, yet which astonishes the listener as casting it in a way he had not hitherto imagined.

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