I suppose that the scope and implications of such forces have rendered my personal accounting ritual pretty much obsolete. That's how things sometimes go.
In my own recent String Trio I attempt to superimpose two quite different sets of formal strategies, both of which, ultimately, refer back to historical precedent.
Actually, most things I say in public lead more or less directly to my own compositional practice, so I should be careful about generalizing lest they come back to haunt me.
As a necessary prerequisite to the creation of new forms of expression one might, I suppose, argue that current sensibilities respond uniquely to the notion of exhaustion as exhaustion, although that does de facto seem rather limiting.
Sometimes one can be so closely involved with things that the larger context is lost to view.
I frequently compose out the entire metric structure of a piece in modified cyclic form, where each cyclic revolution undergoes some form of 'variation' much as if measure lengths were concrete musical 'material.'
Other composers have taken this particular technique much further than I in the meantime, with the result that the Law of Diminishing Returns has begun to apply.
When I left Europe in 1987 I did so with the thought that my relevance as a composition teacher would benefit from a certain cool distance to certain tendencies I had been observing for several years with increasing disquiet.
Certainly being in California has encouraged a sustained commitment to rethinking the nature, purposes, and relevance of the contemporary arts, specifically music, for a society which by and large seems to manage quite well without them.
Naturally enough, I couldn't have foreseen the vast sea change which has come upon that scene as a result of German reunification and associated events.
This was possible only by dint of extended periods of frequently quite painful reflection and digestion.
When I speak of 'cycles,' I am referring to lengthy intervals of relative homogeneity, if not in the resolving of problems, than at least with respect to the consistency of their capacity to productively irritate.
The past nine years in San Diego have represented such a period of questioning.
Questioning the nature and implications of liminal instances necessarily involves failure, if only in the specifically technical sense of entering spaces where prevailing criteria of success scarcely apply.
If the work of art is to continue pursuing the vision of both being in and of the world but nevertheless in some fashion being more than just one more object to the mounting clutter, this is the specific point, I think, where this must be assured.
Why, in such a case, should the performer essay any sort of considered approach at all?
What makes a specific quality or quantity of innovation retain its intense newness over the years?
My own position is, that it is largely up to the work itself to suggest the nature of these referential points without dimensions in and through the processes by which the distance between them is maintained.
Hence my obstinate emphasis on stylistic continuity from work to work rather than specific sibling relationships between the individual work and other members of its stylistic 'family' in the world outside.
I am certainly not arguing for the de facto autonomy of the individual work, even though there is much to be said for making the attempt to see it in that light as one facet of the reception process.
There would seem to be a limit, even for an art preoccupied with boundaries and transgressions, beyond which a work reaches its breaking point and becomes an actual failure, a mere experimentation.
If nothing is at risk, nothing is established.
The idea of 'machine assemblage' is, especially, very alien to my sensibility, since it suggests a relative indifference of the strata to one another during the process of construction.
In my model, important interference phenomena arise when individual strata come into contact. These chaotic fluctuations are, I suppose, what my music is really 'about.'