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 perpetually 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 2016 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 in many ways. Related to my field, I encounter arts organizations who are so anxious about their relevance and fearful regarding their economic viability that it obscures their aesthetic judgment; I see audiences who are bored, confused, disengaged or inattentive; and I meet musicians 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. Musicians can bring more meaning to the performances they give, audiences can be more engaged with what they experience, composers can create yet greater art that helps us interpret our lives and world, and arts institutions can do a better job of bringing all of these people together.
My goal is to be as much a part of a positive way forward as I can. 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 my website. For everything else, I hope you will consider attending my concerts.
Some of my fundamental aesthetic values, most generally, are these:
- 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, a cultural artifact that connects us to our past and our present, and opens future possibilities.
- 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 interact with the world. This change can be big or it can be small; it must be something.
- All art is political; but it is not politics as such. This formulation is a difficult place in which to work. It is inefficient and limiting to ascribe to any artwork a precise political agenda, even if it attempts to present one; it is equally incorrect to pretend that any art exists in a realm of absolute.
- Music, especially, seems to simultaneously resist and predict appropriation by other cultural phenomena. It contains contradictory strains of autonomy and subservience, and this is one of many reasons that its contradictions elude resolution for us.