The Young and/or the Restless

Two generations of composers at Tanglewood.
Boston Globe, July 29, 2007.

DVD extras:

John Harbison on choosing between jazz and classical: “There was this instance of mistaken identity. I won an award, but, by mistake, they gave it to another guy in my [jazz] group. By the time it was straightened out, I had already started [studying classical music] at Harvard.”

Joan Tower on performing vs. composing: “I thought playing the piano was much more fun [than composing]. You’d have the music right there—you’d just do what it told you, and music came out. Composing is so much harder…. Luckily, I kept changing environments. My father was a mining engineer, so we moved around a lot. I kept changing teachers, which wasn’t a good thing, but it helped me later in life not to have a definite career as a pianist. These things work out sometimes.”

Asaf Peres on computer playback: “I had a girlfriend who was a composer, and I would be embarrassed when she would play things back [through the computer] for me. It would sound really bad, and I would think, what am I going to do? But then you hear the live performance, and it sounds amazing.”

William Bolcom on Everett, Washington, where he grew up: “Everett was a little socialist town, so it had very good libraries. So I could go, and they had recordings! And scores! And I would start with the ‘A’ section—I would look at scores and auralize them, learn to hear them in my head.”

Alexandra Fol (a native of Bulgaria) on smuggling music across the Iron Curtain: “I remember that. I was very young, and I remember my parents smuggled Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar between their underwear, these black vinyl records.”

Correction (7/31): I originally had my pronouns mixed up in Asaf’s quote (see comments).


  1. That Bolcom quotation about the separation of performing and composition is a money quote: isn’t that also around when serialism became dominant in the American academy?The Globe screwed up the URL to Soho the Dog at the end of the article.

  2. I enjoyed the Globe article as well as the “DVD extras” here on the blog. As publicist for Naxos of America, I’ve heard lots of stories from Bolcom and Tower; it’s always good to hear more. Our podcast producer, Raymond Bisha, actually interviewed Harbison, Tower, Bolcom, Corigliano, Wuorinen, and Zwilich, and did podcast episodes on each. The link is You can stream here but need to register to I’m going to try to get streams to put on my blog at

  3. Hi Matthew. The article was great, but you got my quote all wrong…The story was that she (my ex girlfriend, Florie Namir) would play her stuff for me through the computer playback, and I thought it sounded really bad, and was really uncomfortable telling her. When I heard her pieces performed, though, they really did sound amazing. The computer playback still cannot provide anything that sounds nearly as good as a live performance, although they are getting closer.

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