Eric Whitacre interviewed by Intelligent Life

Eric Whitacre, one of my favorite composers since high school, has a new interview up at Intelligent Life. I love following his career but I've been sort of disappointed that a lot of his composing has been overshadowed by the glitz of his virtual choir forays.

 

In the interview, Whitacre talks about his nuanced relationship with technology. He claims that he still composes on paper, rather than on a computer, but that he enjoys being introduced to a lot of different kinds of music because of the web. I'm glad that he isn't the type of person to just be completely technotopian (championing technology for any and every use) or completely technophobian (read: Luddite).

 

This anecdote about Debussy stirred some thoughts for me -

In Paris, at the beginning of the 20th century, Debussy went to see a Gamelan orchestra and it completely changed his writing and basically blew his mind. But today I can go through 30 or 40 genres of music in one day, just by browsing the web, so the exposure to different kinds of music and therefore different ideologies is unprecedented. As a composer I know that all sorts of sounds I hear are making their way into my brain and soul, and later sneak into my music.

 

What if the reason that Debussy had his mind blown was because he hadn't spent all that time being exposed to different kinds of music on the web? What about the possibility that Debussy was so entrenched in one form of composing that he reached a saturation point before he could truly have his mind blown by the Gamelan orchestra? I think claiming (although I don't think Whitacre is claiming this, but some have) that similar results may happen in a completely new cultural and information milieu is unreasoned.