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I Am Amadeus

(And I don’t matter)




A curious set of feelings come over me in the composing process. At crucial junctures, revelations will occur, things will “fall into place” ensuring the quality of the piece at hand. In those moments I feel that I am Amadeus, not so much as a direct reference to Mozart via his middle name, rather Amadeus as in Beloved of God. It is a very powerful, affirming sensation. It carries a confirmation with more weight than any positive review, any compliment I might receive. It would seem that these thoughts confer greatness, instill pride.



At the same time that I feel this positive surge, another thought intrudes:


I don’t matter


I’ll attempt to explain by beginning with this statement:


I’m not proud of anything.


Instead, whenever I’m involved in anything good, I’m happy. And, not just happy about the positive outcome, I try to be aware and appreciative of everything that contributed to that outcome.


For example, take my orchestra piece, Cumulus Nimbus.

  • I first got the idea while doing some required sketching during my upper division exams for my undergraduate degree..

  • I returned to the idea as my Masters thesis piece at the Eastman School of Music

  • It won a BMI Student Composer prize in 1979

  • It was published by Alexander Broude, Inc. later that year

  • It was premiered by the Saint Louis Symphony in 1982

  • It was nominated for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize 

  • It was programmed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1983

  • It was performed and recorded by The Louisville Orchestra

  • It’s success led to interest and performances of other orchestra pieces of mine.


One might think that I'm proud of all that, but I find the notion to be untrue to the point of being absurd.


Cumulus Nimbus would never have happened without an extraordinary string of opportunities and great good fortune.


  • I would never have gotten the idea to write for orchestra had I not been impressed by the Rite of Spring episode in Walt Disney’s film, Fantasia, chopped up as it was.

  • If I hadn’t been accepted to Indiana University at South Bend, I would not have 

    • Had rigorous ear training 

      • Including teaching by example given by Dr. Barton McLean, who had a remarkable ear.

    • Been able to study great orchestra repertoire with knowledgeable, dedicated faculty.

    • Been part of a vibrant, stimulating composition program that happened to include idealistic, creative and hard working peers

    • Been learning and working in an excellent electronic music studio that stimulated notions of tone production (including ADSR envelopes) that I consciously applied to Cumulus Nimbus

  • I had training at IUSB and Eastman in score preparation, notation and calligraphy.

  • The year I won the BMI Award was my last year of eligibility by one day. If I had been born on December 31 instead of January 1, would have been too old.



When I listen to something I’ve written that has turned out well, appreciating it’s qualities at the purest, deepest level, there is a voice that asks;

            “Who wrote this?”

                and a another voice that answers;

            “I don’t care.”


It used to be that when I got an idea that really excited me, I would think;

            “This is going to be great!”

                I have come to realize;

            “This is already great!” (I just have to not let that idea down)

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