2005-02-20

John Corigliano

John Corigliano advises composers to learn to stand on a stage during a concert and speak to the audience. 'The minute you say three words, whatever they are, and you're friendly and warm to them, they're so on your side. They so want to love this piece.... All of a sudden, they're thinking of you as a human being in their society who is writing music that could speak to them.'

This is just one of many practical suggestions Corigliano offers his colleagues in 'Overthrowing Composer-Gods and Performer-Gods' in the February 2005 edition of NewMusicBox, the online magazine of the American Music Center.

John Corigliano, a dominating figure in American music today, is probably most familiar to the public as the composer of the music for Francois Girard's The Red Violin, performed by Joshua Bell and the London Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen, and The Ghosts of Versailles, an opera commissioned by the Met.

Composers, performers, and arts administrators all take above-the-belt hits in the frank and invigorating discussion. About the paucity of recordings by American orchestras Corigliano doesn't mince words. 'The unions are screwing up everything,' he says. 'We can't pay those recording fees and put out a record of the most popular work and sell enough to make money, therefore it's dead. What has to happen is they have to understand that it's profit sharing. Put out a record and let the players get a percentage of the sales. If it does well, they'll do well. If it doesn't do well, they won't do so well. But they'll be aware that this is something we're all in together.'

Corigliano characteristically sees the situation for American music improving with a greater creativity and sense of community from all concerned, especially composers. 'I think a composer who has gotten to a certain stage in his life should judge competitions, should donate his time to looking at young people's music and encouraging people.... You can write any kind of music in this country and find an audience. There's always a place for you.'

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