The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
By Rebecca King, Miami City Ballet dancer
RK: How do you orchestrate a 20 minute piece in only 11 days?! LL: By staying up all night and drinking heavily.
RK: On average, how long does it take you to compose new works? LL: It depends on the length of the work, but I am a procrastinator, so I tend to think about pieces for a very long time, and scribble them down on paper in a very short time. Nowadays the process of orchestrating and copying is much speeded up by music notation programs, but when I wrote the 1st Piano Concerto, that was all written in pen and ink.
RK: During the writing process, did you ever envision ballet being set to this piece? LL: No, not at all. But ballet was actually my first big love: my introduction to classical music was with some old 78’s I had as a 5-year-old of the Nutcracker Suite. I would put them on the record player and attempt to pirouette and mimic ballet steps that I saw on TV. I wanted to take ballet lessons at that age, but my parents wouldn’t let me…
RK: In 2002, Robert Hill choreographed a ballet on American Ballet Theatre set to this piece of music. What was it like to see your work come to life through ballet? LL: It was exhilarating! Normally a composer doesn’t see physical manifestations of the effect of his music, so to see all those bodies set into motion is a wonderful thing.
RK: Has technology changed the process of composing in recent years as compared with the year 1983 when you wrote this 1st Concerto for Piano? LL: It hasn’t changed the process of composing at all: I still compose at the piano with pencil and paper. But again, the process of orchestrating (which is a much more mechanical thing than composing) and copying are much speeded up and enhanced.
RK: What is now playing on your iPod? LL: I’m not even sure where it is right now! The only thing on it is actually my own complete works: I only use it when travelling to do a residency at whatever university or school so that I don’t have to lug along a suitcase of CDs. Otherwise, since I spend my working days either composing or practicing for performances, I tend not to listen to a lot of music in my down time. And when I do, I prefer it live.