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Composing for One


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Ed., Reader

In re your article on Ralph Shapey [January 21], I have mixed feelings. No one wants to dispute or deny talent & achievement; yet hype & self-indulgence on the part of composers is also not ignorable. I attended the CSO premiere of Concerto Fantastique & thought it overlong & rambling. It would have been better edited to at least half the time. Subsequently I met Shapey in the lobby & remarked how I really loved that last chord (all the tones available in the scale). I didn't think he got it & seemed clueless to this day. Composers--not unlike musicologists & organists--live a largely isolated life & tolerate no strange gods before them: There is no community despite the AGO, AMS, ASCAP, etc. Everyone thinks everyone else should beat a path to each one's doorstep. And that will never happen! There is a certain sadness here, that so much talent ends up in such dead ends. There's a wealth of talent in Windy City & in all the arts, & individually incredible people. Shapey is like a car lightbulb: he needs U. of C. as a reflector to cast any real beam on the scene. On the other hand, with FM playing eternal chestnuts, one almost would welcome Shapey as antidote to the dull classic fare. (How often do you really want to hear L'Arlesienne Suites?!) Don't get me wrong; I'm all for contemporary music. But the days of wistful prophets and wishful "geniuses" is pretty well long since over with. (I won't be waiting for Ralph's call.)

F.J. Smith


N. Maplewood

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