Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ursula Mamlok, Composer Extraordinaire

It is my great privilege to know Ursula Mamlok, now in NYC celebrating her 90th birthday, well enough to have just spent a few hours alone with her talking about everything musical, which is to say, talking about the musical aspects of our lives about which we care and have cared the most.

I would describe her music as requiring the kind of intimate response that we all crave as musicians.  I don't just want you to like what I play, I want you to identify with it, if only momentarily.

This evening there will be a performance of her works at Symphony Space.  Describing it to a colleague I said I looked forward to it, knowing that everyone playing would be doing so as a labor of love of her music, not simply because they are competent at playing notes.

This morning she was describing a recent composition as simple--easy enough for a child to play.  This prompted an entire discussion about how much children care about sounds and how quickly that caring gets diffused while learning to play notes in quantity.  Is there in fact anything more difficult for an accomplished musician than to play a simple sound on her instrument?