On being a composer

A lot of people have asked me why I would suddenly shift from being a composer to founding a technology and sampling company. The easiest way to describe this is to look at artisans from centuries ago; it was not uncommon for them to be skillful at painting, sculpting and inventing. Today’s society expects everyone to specialize and devote their entire life to a single job. I feel the opposite is true. I need to do more with my life than just write music. I haven’t stopped writing music; I’m just taking a temporary leave of absence while I explore another side of my creativity. For that matter, I’m also a student of psychology, a private pilot and a dad.

One of my dreams has always been to develop DVZ and make a library that finally did it right. So in a way, I’m just taking the time to give myself the present of the sampling technology I’ve always wanted. Thankfully, I was successful enough over the years to accumulate enough funds to finance this project myself. No regrets.

My perspective on being a composer is that our Western culture has difficulty in accepting shades of gray – everything must be black or white. For instance, when someone meets you for the first time, the first question they ask is, “What do you do for a living?” as if that defined you as a human being. AND if you’re a TV composer, even a highly successful one, the next words out of their mouth are, “So why aren’t you doing features?” This out-of-whack view of social priorities is a pernicious and infectious disease, so much so that some composers can’t accept their own success unless it fits the politically correct mold of being the next Beethoven – a job description that died over one hundred years ago.

I too fell into this trap until I had the extreme privilege of having a conversation with Leonard Bernstein one night in Vienna in 1972. I was a student studying at the music academy at the time. I asked him why he hadn’t written any more music after completing his Mass, and he told me he made far more money working as a conductor. Then he paused for a moment and said, “But that’s not it.” The critics would praise him for his conducting but rip him apart for his compositions. He told me that this crushed his desire to continue his career as a composer. Ultimately, he said, his decision to conduct rather than compose was due to his need for praise. In the grand scheme of things, what he considered “ripping apart” was probably just the appearance of one or two less than perfect reviews, but to him it must have felt like he was scaling Mount Everest in a thong. ? Now we’ll never hear what might have been.

In the end, I have found that talent is everywhere, we’ve just been trained not to see it. Software engineering, for example, is every bit as creative as composing. So are lots of other unrecognized arts that are chalked up as banal skills. So, it’s not about what I do that defines me as a person; it’s about separating me from my career that keeps my life balanced. In my experience, you don’t choose your career, it chooses you based on your personality type. Talent is merely the prerequisite. In other words, no one’s talent ever gave them the job… it’s all in the attitude.