Goals in Composition/
A Riposte to Critics



As tedious as it may seem, I feel the need to provide some context for the music that I write and play.

I feel this need because some of my work has gotten responses that misinterpret or misunderstand my basic artistic intent. Further, even though many of my projects sound different, the basic underlying principles are more or less constant.

I am interested in existing in a continuum of music that has composition at one end and free improvisation at the other. All of the work that I have had recorded over the last 12 years under my own name reflects this interest.

Sometimes the compositions are extremely minor - - they act as mere jump-starters for the improvisations; often these pieces are more in line with the jazz tradition (though, more often than not,   I eschew the standard head-solo-solo-head format). More often, however, the compositions are intended to inform and drive the improvisations; in other words, the improvised material needs to grow out of, and be organically intertwined with, the written material. Using Sonata Allegro form as a conceptual jumping-off place, the improvisation sections in my pieces act like "development sections" of the larger whole.

It is because of this symbiotic relationship between the written and improvised sections in my pieces that some people have mistakenly thought that the pieces were completely through-composed. Still others have been disappointed that the improvised material did not have the same intent and fervor that they are used to hearing from other people who work in a similar vein. To them I would say that they are used to people improvising with disregard for the written material, which is an anathema to me.

Too often I have heard concerts or recordings where written material is played and then the improvised material starts . . . and there is little or no connection between them. I find this lack of connection tiresome - - I often question the need for the written material if the players do not tie their improvisation into the piece at hand.

To me, the written and improvised material in a piece should create an organic whole. Additionally, I feel that the players should honor the intent and ambience of the piece; they should be true to the narrative, the "story" that the piece is telling. It many ways, it requires the players to address any given piece as co-composers.

The rub is, of course, that people often mistake what the improvisers are doing with what I have written (not so secretly, I like this because it means the piece is working). Unfortunately, this sometimes overlooks the very real accomplishments and contributions that the players bring to the music. In general, the notes I write are often less complex than perceived whole of   the forms that contain them.

Lastly, it is not my intention to be "avant garde" . . . if that's the way that the music sounds, fine; if not, that too is fine. I try to write what I hear, what interests me and what expresses what I want to express - - no more, no less.