American Composers Forum
I never intended to become a composer. Nor to spend several years in India learning music. I set out to be a painter but after twists and turns began writing music at the age of 28. Why did I start composing? Why does anyone write music? My first composition teacher, John McDonald, had a pretty good answer: “Because there are things you aren’t hearing.” Yes, I wanted to hear something different. I wanted many things to be different.
Growing up I played horn, sang in choirs, and later played electric bass in bands. I listened closely to many kinds of music. I sought out music I didn’t understand—that didn’t make sense to me. I was interested in it because I didn’t get it. The first concert of Indian classical music I attended was by, I learned later, South India’s most renowned classical singer, M.S. Subbulakshmi. I walked out about 20 minutes in, not because I disliked the music, but because I didn’t understand what I was hearing. But I was intrigued enough to go back and then go back again.
Things you don’t understand, that may even make you uncomfortable can—if you let them in—rewire your brain. Learning a foreign language (especially a non-Indo-European one) compels you to reconsider not only what words mean and how you express yourself, but ultimately, how the world works and who you are in it. Everything starts to look—and sound—different. For me, that’s exhilarating. Composing is similar except you are the one generating different ways of hearing and making new sense of the world. You then offer your work to listeners in the hope of sparking something fresh in them. Mixed in with this is undeniably an effort on my part to escape social and musical conventions (like the young Herman Melville escaping to the South Seas)—in order to build and live in a space of possibilities and to share that sought-after freedom with others.
—David Claman, March 2020
Susan's compositions reveal her positive, joyful personality plus her appreciation for peaceful reflection. An accomplished organist, pianist, soprano, music educator, she creates a Joyful Song.
Composer of music for chamber, orchestral, choral, vocal, dance and multi-media collaborations
Sheree composes dense, colorful concert music for mixed chamber ensembles, string quartet, chamber orchestra, orchestra, voice and fixed electronic media. She has also created soundtracks for stop motion animation.
Composer and writer of works for chorus, orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance & theatre
Gene Coleman is a composer and artistic director of Soundfield, NFP and the group Ensemble N_JP
Composer and flutist. Founder of Imani Winds.
Music can articulate beyond the boundaries of language, and even emotions. Music can be timeless and transcend the limitations of our experience of time.