Jennifer Higdon shares her thoughts about new music and how young people may get more exposure to music through Internet.

jennifer and the cat
What does music mean to you personally?

It means everything…it’s the expression of the soul, life experience, love, pain, joy, heartbreak, and just about anything else a person can imagine.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

I don’t think of it so specifically in this way. Sometimes it is about more concrete things.

If you were not a professional musician, who would you have been?

I would have either been a literary writer or a fine artist (painting, drawing, or photography). Without doubt, it would have been some sort of creative field.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

No, not really. Many of the concerts where I’ve had performances have had quite a few young people. Things are changing…classical music may be evolving into something that appeals more to young people.

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

This is an interesting question, however, I don’t sit around thinking about this sort of thing. My interest is in writing the best music that I can, and that means spending all of my time figuring out how to achieve that. I let others make the decision about what classical music’s role will be in the 21st century.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

New Music! That’s the way!

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Classical musicians do need to be more creative. The world is changing so fast and new technologies are altering the way we consume art. The presentation of art now competes with a much “noisier” and “busier” world, with so much is easily accessible. To make an impression, classical musicians have to figure out how to make their art available and visible. It has to be more inviting.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

I think performing works that reflect the time of the younger generation is one thing (living music for the living world). I also thinking changing the format of concerts is another. Performing in unusual venues is also something that gets younger audiences interested. I will personally proceed by continuing to write the best music that I can.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favorite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

My creative process is very long and involved, and changes from project to project. I talk a lot to the commissioners to find out what they need, and what suits them. Then there is a lot of daydreaming and sketching, which eventually evolves into the music itself. I spend most days composing, which is balanced by a lot of study, and then those everyday tasks that go with being an active artist in today’s world (the publishing, interviews, recording projects, donor events, residencies, etc.). I don’t know if I have a favorite work. That choice probably changes on a consistent basis. I tend not to think a lot about the pieces that I’ve already written that are out in the world. My most immediate thought is always about the project I’m currently working on.

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

I love them.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

I suggest starting with newer music. Go online and take a listen to people who are writing right now. Much of it is accessible via the internet. If you hear something you don’t like, try another composer’s work.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

I don’t think it is any different than it was in Mozart or Beethoven or Bach’s day. I believe it’s still the same process…they didn’t write in a vacuum, and without being paid; they wrote, sometimes as part of a job, or to sell their music and their concerts to publishers and audiences; they had patrons, and they worked hard to make sure they could pay the bills, sometimes barely doing so. In truth, it’s actually easier today to be a composer…many more composers can afford to own their own houses (for instance); the premieres of their pieces were pretty under rehearsed, and with musicians who were far less skilled than what we have today; once their pieces were performed, they were almost never performed again in their lifetimes (whereas today, repeat performances are more likely to happen).

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

I don’t approach audiences in a way thinking they should bring something to the experience of listening to my or anyone else’s music. I am more likely to have the expectations of myself as the person writing the music.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I always experiment in my projects; every piece has some sort of challenge that I have set for myself, or a different approach in the composing. And the projects currently underway are: a new Harp Concerto, which I am finishing right now. After that is a string quartet, followed by a chamber opera. Then I have several new concerti coming after the chamber opera is written…a double percussion concerto, a flute concertino, and an orchestral suite based on my opera, “Cold Mountain”.


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