My friend, Derrick Horne (who you may remember from a previous Life Builders post), recently composed a fanfare for brass quintet that I want to share with all my brass playing friends. Here’s the Youtube video of a live performance of his piece:
I’m extremely interested in what Derrick is doing. For those who don’t know this already, Derrick is already an experienced composer but in a different genre. You know, the very first word I ever heard anyone use to describe Derrick as a musician was “beast”. Derrick is one of the funkiest musical minds I have ever met and amongst my fellow musicians it’s a great compliment to say “Derrick Horne is a beast” (personally I don’t like the expression so I never use it myself). I invite you to listen to Derrick’s writing, singing and playing at his MySpace page by clicking HERE. The fact that he is now composing classical music is important, not just to me but to the music community as a whole.
I invite you, when you are done listening to Derrick’s fanfare, to watch the following video (starting at the 29 minute mark) of Yo-Yo Ma discussing “The Edge Effect” as it relates to music. It reminds me of a masterclass when Jim Thompson said to a recital hall room filled with trumpet players, “an orchestral trumpet player who plays jazz brings something special to the orchestra.” I believe this is even more true for composition than it is for trumpet performance. And that’s how I see Derrick’s classical writing in his new fanfare. Derrick brings a vast background of experience as a successful writer and performer to a sometimes warn out idiom.
You know, I’ve been teaching composition students for over twenty years now. I am always telling them to differentiate between the creative process and the music theory. There is a reminder I read to myself every day, so that, as a teacher, I always remember to teach this way. The reminder says that “there are no rules, only prompts.” We learn the skill and the theory only because it gives us new ideas to work with, new tools to use to express ourselves. The music theory is not a set of rules that we follow, but a treasure chest of new ideas and tools.
In his book, Poetics of Music, Igor Stravinsky writes:
“A composer improvises aimlessly the way an animal grubs about. Both of them go grubbing about because they yield to a compulsion to seek things out. What urge of the composer is satisfied by this investigation? The rules with which, like a penitent, he is burdened? No: he is in quest of his pleasure. He seeks a satisfaction that he fully knows he will not find without first striving for it.”
I hear in Derrick’s fanfare not something that simply follows the rules (I’ve heard a great number of student composer recitals and know what following the rules sounds like), but a composition that actually makes a personal connection.
I have two hopes to express at this point. Firstly, I hope that Derrick continues to explore the classical idioms. The time is ripe today for someone like him to step up and write for us! Secondly, I hope that performing ensembles take advantage of his talent as a composer. I could write an entire series of posts about the direction I see classical music heading, but for now, just know that I believe that composers like Derrick are the future of classical music.