You know …

Thinking more about what I said previously about how a “new” performer is not a “new” composer … You can still compare, I think. People will. It’s just a matter of saying, “Who is this person like?”

That assumes of course that it’s valid to say “X is the new Y” at all, which is a completely different question. I remember hearing Carpenter say once in response to a frequent comparison that he wasn’t the second Virgil Fox but the first Cameron Carpenter. Comparisons always limp.

Maybe this new fellow is the next André Watts. The next Nikolai Lugansky (who is a bit young to have his name handed to anyone, really). The next Glenn Gould? The next … someone else who is known for being a brilliant performer.

But the performer/composer parallel is a strange one to use. Compare someone who is doing the same thing this fellow is doing: negotiating the extremely difficult task of finding room for self-expression within a written piece, expressing something they feel or something common to all within an already created thing. Like I said before, that’s damned hard. It should be recognized for what it is, and I think it would be helpful for student performers to have the task before them really set out as what it is.

Too often the task of playing someone else’s music is stated as “play it the way the composer intended.” (At least, that seems to be what critics like to think.) That’s not quite right, and as someone who writes music that (I hope) might be played some day by others, I’d like to leave room for the performer to say something as well. I try to make a conscious choice not to swell up and take over all the room on the page. The piece isn’t any fun for anyone to play if all of the decisions have been made.

I think that’s part of why I dislike putting dynamic markings or pedaling in a piece. If I’m playing it, I know what I want it to sound like. And if someone else is playing it, why should I tell them exactly how? Hell, they might find a new and interesting — and completely coherent — way of interpreting it that is not my way. I like to leave room in the sandbox — marking what I think needs to be pinned down in the piece, and beyond that, let the performer have their fun.

I think confusing performing with composing like this demonstrates that the dominant classical culture doesn’t really grasp either task. And it makes me wonder if they really appreciate what people like this fellow, Watts, Lugansky, etc. achieve when they’re on stage. Finding personal expression from within a universe created by someone else is not child’s play. It’s an extremely difficult accomplishment and should be lauded for what it is.