The Courage of Composers and the Tyranny of Taste

The Courage of Composers and the Tyranny of Taste

Reflections on New Music

Bálint András Varga

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All-new interviews with 33 of the world's leading composers--from Adams and Crumb to Gubaïdulina and Rihm--give unique insights into the creative process.
Bálint András Varga is perhaps the world's most respected interviewer of living composers. For The Courage of Composers and the Tyranny of Taste: Reflections on New Music, Varga has confronted thirty-three composers with quotations carefully chosen to elicit their thoughts about an issue that is crucial for any serious creative artist: How can one find courage to deal with the sometimes tyrannical expectations of the outside world?

The result is an imaginary roundtable at which we encounter fresh, revealing, previously unpublished statements from such world-renowned composers as John Adams, Friedrich Cerha, George Crumb, Sofia Gubaïdulina, Georg Friedrich Haas, Giya Kancheli, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, Libby Larsen, Robert Morris, and Wolfgang Rihm. Also represented are composers who are becoming more prominent with the passing years -- Chaya Czernowin, Pascal Dusapin, and Rebecca Saunders -- as well as conductor-composer Michael Gielen, festival director Nicholas Kenyon, and music critics Paul Griffiths and Arnold Whittall. In The Courage of Composers and the Tyranny of Taste, composers and other insightful individuals comment on choices made, traps avoided, unforeseen consequences, proud accomplishments, occasional regrets: the whole range of experiences central to artistic creativity.

Bálint András Varga is the acclaimed author of György Kurtág: Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages; Three Questions for 65 Composers; and From Boulanger to Stockhausen: Interviews and a Memoir (all available from University of Rochester Press).

Table of Contents

Hans Abrahamsen (b. 1952)
John Adams (b. 1947)
Vykintas Baltakas (b. 1972)
George Benjamin (b. 1960)
Friedrich Cerha (b. 1926)
Unsuk Chin (b. 1961)
George Crumb (b. 1929)
Chaya Czernowin (b. 1957)
Paul-Heinz Dittrich (b. 1930)
Pascal Dusapin (b. 1955)
Lorenzo Ferrero (b. 1951)
Michael Gielen (b. 1927)
Detlev Glanert (b. 1960)
Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931)
Georg Friedrich Haas (b. 1953)
Giya Kancheli (b. 1935)
György Kurtág (b. 1926)
Helmut Lachenmann (b. 1935)
Libby Larsen (b. 1950)
Liza Lim (b. 1966)
Luca Lombardi (b. 1945)
Siegfried Matthus (b. 1934)
Robert Morris (b. 1943)
Olga Neuwirth (b. 1968)
Enno Poppe (b. 1969)
Karl Aage Rasmussen (b. 1947)
Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952)
Rebecca Saunders (b. 1967)
Allen Shawn (b. 1948)
Johannes Maria Staud (b. 1974)
Manfred Trojahn (b. 1949)
Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Christian Wolff (b. 1934)
Paul Griffiths (b. 1947)
Wolfgang Schreiber (b. 1939)
Arnold Whittall (b. 1935)
Heike Hoffmann (b. 1958)
Sir Nicholas Kenyon (b. 1951)
Epilogue: Rainer Nonnenmann (b. 1968) andBálint András Varga (b. 1941)


Capturing a wealth of ideas about contemporary music, [Varga's latest book] features a wide breadth of composers, including such grandees as George Crumb and Wolfgang Rihm. Varga's encounter with John Adams is a highlight. The book not only offers a marvellous compendium of musical philosophies but also captures something of the intensely personal energy that fuels the creative act. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE [Kate Wakeling]

Bálint András Varga is extremely well connected within the New Music scene. [In his latest book we meet] an illustrious troop of composers who, with their testimonies, commentaries, and thoughts, give at times sobering insights into their existence as composers. RONDO [Guido Fisher] [Review of German edition]

This book is a wonderful follow-up to Bálint András Varga's last book. The reader will be rewarded with numerous discoveries about the creative process from an authentic perspective. Books of this kind rarely succeed in making you curious about the author's next book, as Varga's does. INFO-NETZ-MUSIK [Review of German edition]

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