It seems to me opera is just as relevant as an expressive art as anything else.
Our most intimate contact with civilizations long since dust has been through the art which has survived them.
I found a certain kind of music congenial to me; it never occurred to me to write music that was academically acceptable.
If an American audience is given a serious musical theater piece that is well produced, dramatically gripping and wonderfully acted, they'll respond to it.
America tends to worship the modest talent because it doesn't put us in an uncomfortable position vis-a-vis the artist.
The story of Willie Stark fascinated me because it was tackling the story of a man who outwardly has all the success one could possibly want and who is destroyed by his personal demons.
The performances of my works in the last 10 years are probably equal to all the previous years put together. There are so many venues now and there is a completely new public for opera that's grown up outside of the traditional core opera public.
I've never set out consciously to write American music. I don't know what that would be unless the obvious Appalachian folk references.
Anyone who creates something new or does something different artistically is going to be singled out.
There is something inherent in our democracy that tends to want to level. America is a little uncomfortable in the presence of someone who is distinctly superior in whatever way.
You can't possibly predict what will last or not. But once you attempt to write for the ages, you're doomed.
The artist is something of an outsider in America. I have always felt that America does not value its artists, certainly not in the sense that the Europeans do.
People in very high places suddenly fall, and we are always surprised because we don't factor in the basic element that they're humans and, therefore, they are flawed and have weaknesses.
I had all the normal interests - I played basketball and I headed the school paper. But I also developed very early a great love for music and literature and the theater.
I was trying to do something that seemed very natural and easy but which bridged that gulf between the singing voice and the speaking voice.
I think anything that is expressed directly and as honestly as possible will last.
It's amazing how fast generations lose sight of other generations. One of the first things the young composers who come to work with me say is that they want to write music people will like, instead of gaining their credentials by being rejected by the audience.
It's necessary to track characters all the way through an opera. If you're dealing with more than one or two characters, it's very easy to forget that the others have lives of their own that feed into the story.
We think the Puritans always dressed in black and white, which they didn't. They loved very bright colors. And there were other differences in perceptions that gave one a very different view of them.
Socially I never was an outsider. I have never thought of the conflict element before frankly, but perhaps it was wanting to belong, and at the same time wanting to retain one's own personality.
Most of the important composers in our country are clustered in the Northeast.
Like any other composer of opera, I choose a subject not for polemical reasons, but because it contains vivid characters in highly charged dramatic situations.
What is American music? The most satisfying answer I've come across is that it was a kind of natural comfort with the vernacular which is diverse and regional; it's not one particular set of sounds.
I was encouraged by my mother and, to a lesser extent, by my father.
If I felt that one of my operas did not come off I would certainly say so.
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