WHY THE HELL DO WE DO WHAT WE DO? OR An invitation/advertisement in the form of a personal confession
I know you're busy and it may be a burden to read this letter. So to be direct, I would like you to attend the Ensemble's performance of our new music program "Looking West to the East" on January 28 at Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. Cal Performances has commissioned new works by Carl Stone, Bun Ching Lam and me for our electro-acoustic band that will premiere on this program. The program also includes works by me, John Adams, Jay Cloidt, Paul Hanson and John Luther Adams.
While I resort to words to make my case, I cannot find the appropriate language to describe this new music which, at its core, derives its strength from the simple fact that its power to communicate has nothing to do with words. And so I hope to inspire you with the ideas which inspire us to make such a concert.
I've spent the last two decades creating and performing contemporary and experimental music and music theater. During this time, I have always been motivated by a belief in the power of new art to reveal and transform how we perceive and experience the world and to break down boundaries and limitations on our experiences. I have no expectation that anyone but, perhaps, another person so directly connected with making this type of work, would share this particular obsession.
This may sound like an excuse for abstraction or obscurity but in fact this music is both direct and complex and it "speaks" on so many different levels that it can be appreciated in as many ways. So I really do care if you listen and I strongly believe that motivated by these beliefs, our concert will offer, to an active listener, a vision of an evolving musical language and possible future for music which can inspire, excite, challenge, provoke and/or offend, and hopefully all in the same evening.
The Ensemble recently returned from a tour where I was frequently asked to speak to students. I was sadly reminded that to most people, the above motivations are in no way part of their expectations of art, which is experienced as passive entertainment. Their ideas about a reason for making art simply reduce to fame and/or fortune. And while it is always gratifying when an artist achieves this elusive fame or fortune we know that broad public acceptance is a poor way to evaluate the ultimate significance of artistic work.
I will not guess as to the future significance of my or my colleagues work. But what we may accomplish with certainty is that we, as artists and audiences members, can actively participate in the evolution of our expanding musical horizons.
I hope to see you there,
Paul Dresher Artistic Director