The Use of an International Language
Within Music is Very Natural
Interview conducted by Heliana Correa, translated from the original Esperanto by David Gaines
Q: David Gaines, why did you choose the symphony as your means of expression for realizing your musical feelings?
A: The symphony is a huge and imposing "music container" and it was very appropriate for my doctoral degree.
Q: Do you consider all of the aesthetic elements that make up your Symphony No. 1 (voice, poetry, form, orchestra, tonality, etc.) to be totally successful?
A: As a composer I'm never totally satisfied regarding my works. If I were to recompose the symphony from scratch, I would probably make some small changes to the arrangement of the voice, the depth of the orchestration, and the form of certain themes. But I don't like to look backwards in terms of composing....the piece, on the whole, is a success, in my opinion.
Q: Could your Symphony No. 1 have been subtitled, on the basis of some witty or historical anecdote, in any way other than it's now known, "Esperanto?"
A: No, I never thought about that.
Q: According to the report by Ladislav Lani in [the bi-weekly Esperanto newspaper] Heroldo de Esperanto, your four-movement vocal Symphony No. 1 for mezzo-soprano and orchestra is dedicated to your parents. Among your compositions, is it the only one dedicated to them? What was the impetus for this dedication?
A: Yes, this was the first of my compositions dedicated to my parents. My mother always used to ask, "when will you write something for us?" She waited for the appearance of a sufficiently large and serious work! The impetus was an ordinary one....just an expression of thanks to my parents for their support.
Q: Do other compositions of yours consist of as many influences from your travels as the Symphony No. 1 does? What about the main influences?
A: There exist in all of my works, either intentionally or unintentionally, pieces of my experiences across the world. The different music of different peoples knocks me out. For example, I really like the musical history of Brazil and Bulgaria, among other places. Perhaps in some of my smaller compositions you can hear rhythms that are totally non-American.
Concerning the "central influences" of my symphony, I can only say they derive from my internal "music place" and are an unavoidable result of my many different experiences.
Q: I suppose that, after so many musical contacts, you have some influences....what influences have attracted you? Have those influences enriched your works? And finally, for what reason do you permit (or not) certain influences?
A: The ethnic music of other peoples is, as I mentioned previously, very appealing. Also the progressive rock music of Great Britain and the U.S. from the 1970s and 1980s -- one can definitely hear that here and there by way of motives and irregular rhythms. As far as influences are concerned, I neither permit nor don't permit. Like other composers, the ideas flow and I choose or discard according to what pleases me. I have my own tendencies, so certainly those previously existing tendencies have some power over what I do.
Q: Looking at your list of works, one notices that you're a very active composer. The simultaneity of some of your compositions struck me. How do you organize yourself in terms of time and emotions in order to fulfill your aims?
A: If I were really an active composer, I'd like that, but it's not the case! Check out Hindemith, Mozart, Hovhaness, or Telemann to see a really active composer. I, as a doctoral student, felt obligated to write as much as possible in order to improve my abilities.
Q: What do you feel when you compose?
A: I'd like my ideas to flow as rapidly as with the above-mentioned composers. Composing is a difficult struggle for me, in general. I belong to that type of composer related more to Beethoven than to Mozart. So what I feel is the struggle to finish up the work.
Q: One knows about the relationship between two of the most important human interests: music and religion. How do you understand that relationship?
A: I have almost no interest in that. Other composers with different interests would be able to respond to that much better than me.
Q: In the case of your composition Spiritstatoj, what does that mean to you?
A: In English, spiritstato means "mood." The three movements express three diverse moods, or "spirit states" (spiritstatoj). It was a good opportunity for me to use Esperanto as a rare "tool" to create a title, as the American composer Lou Harrison did forty years ago.
Q: From the organological part of your studies, did any musical instrument in particular capture your attention? Do you play an instrument? Finally, what would you like to say about your experience in combining instruments when you need to orchestrate a work?
A: Yes, without a doubt the euphonium (tenor tuba) is my favorite instrument. I played it during my college years, along with the bass trombone. I've always felt, and feel now, that the euphonium has the most beautiful voice in the whole concert band. So, because of that, one can find the euphonium in all of my orchestral scores as well. I've also composed two concertos for that instrument.
Q: What common characteristics stand out for you between the two universal languages, music and Esperanto?
A: Well, regarding that I can only say that both put their participants on an equal footing, and enable real comradeship without barriers or communication-related difficulties. For me, the use of an international language within music is very natural and I will continue that activity.