Cover image for The muse that sings : composers speak about the creative process
The muse that sings : composers speak about the creative process
McCutchan, Ann.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xv, 262 pages : portraits ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Eric Stokes -- Steve Reich -- William Bolcom -- John Corigliano -- John Harbison -- Joan Tower -- John Adams -- Claude Baker -- Dan Welcher -- Daniel S. Godfrey -- Fred Lerdahl -- Shulamit Ran -- Christopher Rouse -- Steven Stucky -- Libby Larsen -- Lois V. Vierk -- John Zorn -- Michael Daugherty -- James Mobberley -- Bruce Adolphe -- Bright Sheng -- Richard Danielpour -- David Lang -- Sebastian Currier -- Aaron Jay Kernis.
Reading Level:
1080 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML430 .M33 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
ML430 .M33 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The Muse That Sings is a unique behind-the-scenes look at both twentieth-century music and the nuts and bolts of creative work. Here, twenty-five of America's leading composers--from Adams to Zorn, from Bolcom to Vierk--talk candidly about their craft, their motivations, their difficulties,and how they how proceed from musical idea to finished composition. While focusing on the process and the stories behind specific works, the composers also touch on topics that will interest anyone involved in creative work. They discuss teachers and mentors, the task of revision, relationships with performers, and the ongoing struggle for a balance between freedomand discipline. They reveal sources of inspiration, artistic goals, and the often unexpected ways their musical ideas develop. Some describe personal tonal systems; others discuss the impact of computers and other electronic tools on their work; still others reflect philosophically on the inner impulses and outerinfluences that continue to drive them. While serious music has a reputation for being difficult and inaccessible, The Muse That Sings provides a powerful antidote. The composers in this book speak clearly and thoughtfully in response to key questions of concern to all readers interested in contemporary music. Each interview has been edited to stand alone as a concise meditation on muse and technique, and the book includes selected discographies as well as brief biographical sketches. Anyone with an interest in twentieth-century music or in the creative process will find this lively collection a valuable source of inspiration and insight.

Author Notes

Award-winning fine arts writer Ann McCutchan is also the author of Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute (1994). She is a Lecturer in the School of Music at the University of Texas.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

These interviews with 25 composers are distilled to short, informal yet highly focused discussions in which almost all of the composers refer in some way to the academic serialist movement that has been scaring off audiences for 50 years. McCutchan (Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute), who conducted the interviews between 1995 and 1998, allows the voices of the composersÄmost of whom live and work in the U.S. and were born between 1930 and 1960Äto come through with candor. John Corigliano explains that he composed his opera Ghosts of Versailles in colored crayons because he "wanted the color of the sound to change as a single line moved." On the relative importance of self-doubt, Bruce Adolphe, education adviser to New York's Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, says, "Doubt is a waste of energy when you're trying to be creative, but it's useful when you're editing the piece." About his work habits, Steve Reich says, "What happens in 95 percent of the pieces is that I work a lot, I trash a lot, I revise a lot"; and John Zorn, who has influenced the downtown avant-garde music scene, explains, "The sensibility of the generation that I belong to, which is interested in world music, jazz, funk, hard-core punk, classical music... is the same one Mozart had. He made use of everything around him." Rounding out each interview is a selected list of the composer's work. These intimate snapshots of creative artists contemplating their role and function at the end of the 20th century succeed not only in shedding light on the creative process, but in dispelling many of the negative stereotypes attached to contemporary music. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved