I take a pretty broad and extensive view of music. I'm much less concerned with defining what it is or isn't than I am making space for what it might be. Though I rethink them regularly, some of my more foundational artistic values are these; while it may strike you as naive, idealistic, or simple-minded to formulate them plainly, I feel that this is a better strategy than leaving them unexamined.
- All art, whether it tries to be or not, is about life, the interpretation of the world and the self, history, human and natural systems, and what is unknown or unknowable about all of these things. It is, in short, partially a cultural artifact that connects us to our past and our present, and imagines possibilities.
- All art is political; but it is not politics as such. This formulation is frustrating, and creates a difficult place in which to work. It is simultaneously limiting and arrogant and to ascribe to any artwork a precise political agenda, even if it attempts to present one; it is both detrimental and dangerous to pretend that any art exists in a realm of the absolute, that it is above or removed from culture.
- As a performer, my goal is to help audiences, other performers, and composers interact with art in ways that change how they think, feel, and do. This change might exist on a wide continuum of possibilities.
- Following Attali, it seems to me that music—especially—seems to both resist and predict appropriation by other cultural phenomena. It contains contradictory strains of simultaneous autonomy and subservience, and this is one of many reasons that its contradictions elude resolution for us.
- A performance of music is not merely a thing that happens on a stage for an audience: it is just as much the process of composition; the process of preparation; the in situ hearing; how all of this lives in the minds of audiences, musicians, and composers afterwards; and how culture construes this over long periods.
- I try to do a bit more than what I can with what I have. Sometimes this gets me in trouble.
Practically speaking, it seems to me that we live in a deeply contradictory culture, musical and otherwise.
On the one hand, I am humbled by the talent, commitment, and skill of artists working today in all media and genres. I am regularly amazed by the variety and diversity of the music being played and composed. I am inspired by the enthusiasm of people who love it and love to experience it. More music (and more different kinds of music) is being written and played in 2017 than at any other point in human history. It is an astonishing, overwhelming time to be alive as a person working in the arts.
On the other hand, our culture is in crisis on multiple fronts. Related to my field specifically, I encounter arts organizations who are so anxious about their relevance and fearful regarding their economic viability that it obscures their aesthetic judgment or clouds their analysis of problems. I see audiences who are bored, confused, disengaged, or inattentive. I meet musicians who question the relevance of what they do in an increasingly hopeless world, or who view themselves as merely doing a job that has no relation either to their inner lives or to the society in which they live.
While we are capable of doing important work and being inspired artists, we are also dragged down by aspects of the thorny cultural landscape in which we live. For every uniquely courageous performer or composer, there is a correspondingly severe sense in which the various injustices—the economic, political, and practical realities of our society—circumscribe our artistic (and other) choices.
I cannot help but think that we can all expect more of ourselves and of our culture and our politics. For me, this expectation starts with myself.
My goal is to be a good citizen, artistically and otherwise. I will develop my thoughts about the future of the performance of music—new and old—in the United States and the world through my work as a conductor, interpreter, writer, thinker, and educator. Some of this you will see on this website. For other things, please consider attending my concerts or those of my colleagues.