Music For Young Players: thoughts & history, an introduction

I believe that music for young people to play can be every bit as aesthetically challenging and valuable as any other music. More playable materials aren't necessarily simple. And simple materials can demand significant attention from a performer or ensemble: they cry out for subtleties in performance, they can use unusual notation, they can use instruments in unusual ways.

Virtuosity is not the determinant of musical quality.

Complexity can result from a number of factors, with the onus on the composer to construct a meaningful sound experience for the listener regardless of technical demands on the performer.

What I aim for is to deliver to a performer – young or old, beginner or virtuoso – the opportunity to create a meaningful experience for an audience. As a person practices or rehearses a piece I have composed, I hope that insights occur as to timing, dynamic balance, tempo, and so forth as they affect the reception of the music, opening avenues to creative performances.

In my several years as chair of composition and theory at the Longy School of Music, and starting a few years before that, I have had the chance to compose a number of pieces for young players. It is always my hope in composing such pieces to light a spark of interest in the broad range of sounds that instruments can make. An odd turn here or there, a harmony that is a bit unusual: a number of factors can grab the attention of a player. Opening up minds and fingers to a world where the familiar is twisted, where off-limits sounds are used to great advantage, where new meanings become possible is at the heart of the quest for me.

my list of works elsewhere on the website, I have extracted those pieces written for young people and listed them below. Over time, I will describe some of the pieces and their challenges for young people. Where possible, I will provide a few videos or audio recordings of performances, and sample pages from scores.

The list (active links to grow in the coming weeks):

Nanocosmos (2004-2012)
Deepening Groove Near Walden Pond (2007)
Ten Violins (2006)
Trio (2006)
TTC#12: a realization in sound of Tao Te Ching poem 12 (2004)
Thrust (2003)
The Fall (2003)
Brown Dog (2001)