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composer's corner

greetings from kevin puts

September 13, 2007

Greetings from the Hotel Lancaster, just across the street from Jones Hall in Houston. Though I live in New York, I am here in Texas this week for performances of my Symphony no. 1 by the Houston Symphony conducted by Hans Graf. I heard a rehearsal yesterday, and it felt somewhat like reading an old journal! I wrote this piece in 1998 while I was still in school at Eastman, and in fact it served as my doctoral thesis. It’s interesting to hear that I have grown in many ways since then, but in essence what I am trying to do has not changed all that much.

My name is Kevin Puts (yes, often mispronounced…you say it like “he puts the drink on the table”) and I am really thrilled to be the LA Chamber Orchestra’s Sound Investment composer this year. And even more thrilled because of what that entails—writing a concerto for the amazing Jeffrey Kahane and his crew of virtuosos, a work to be conducted from the keyboard by Jeff next May. If I were held at gunpoint, I would have to say my all-time favorite pieces in the world are Mozart’s piano concertos. I have always favored these above the big romantic concertos most of which seem to represent a struggle of some sort between the one and the many. What Mozart achieves in his concertos makes me think of Jeff and the convivial openness and joy of his music-making, the way it feels to everyone involved like an experience of sharing rather than one in which hierarchies are at play. This will be key in my piece.

At the moment I am working on a piano trio for the Eroica Trio. I am giving two presentations in Houston today, one at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and one to the composition students at Rice University where I will probably sneak into a practice room after the talk and get some composing done before having dinner with my Aunt Michelle tonight! I used to think of composing on the road an impossibility, but these days it’s not only necessary but a real pleasure. I think it has something to do with being in a foreign place and the relative comfort of escaping into my familiar haven of notes and chords, etc.

Composing is probably one of the artworld’s most mysterious pursuits, and composers are usually of little help in demystifying it. If the guy sitting next to me on the plane asks what I do for living, telling him is a good way to end the conversation in a hurry. I don’t think most people are aware composers exist, or that some of us make a living writing music, and they CERTAINLY have no idea how we do it. And for the most part, neither do we. I am asked questions like, “How do you hear all the voices at once?” or “how do you know what should happen next?” and I never come up with sufficient answers. But in the forthcoming months, I will use this blog to try and describe to you the process of building a piece of music from the ground up. By the time of the premiere in May, I hope to give you some idea of what I do and how I do it.

If you would like to get to know me a little, you can check out my website. Talk to you again soon!

1 comment

What an interesting way comparison you make between an earlier composition and an old journal entry. Musicologists (and lay listeners, too), of course, love to analyze music with regard to what we might know of a composer's emotional state at the time, but I never thought about how a composer might view his or her own work after a distance of years. Thanks for the insight - looking forward to hearing more!

  • —Michelle - not Kevin's aunt, September 13, 2007 10:48 am

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