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My operas and my theatre works are very formal pieces.
– Harrison Birtwistle
I think music has gone through a period of something very severe, rather radical, rather the way painting did with cubism.
In the end it doesn’t matter what you do.
The piece that had a large influence on me was Turangalila.
The thing about influence is that any composer worth anything will give you the same names.
My operas usually come from musical ideas rather than ideas about subject matter.
When I dealt with set theory, I could never make it be the music that I wanted.
The opera tells the story with all the built-in contradictions and from many different angles.
I’m not a music lover in the sense that I look for something to have on. I’ve never had that attitude to music.
I don’t have ideas so much as there are things which constantly evolve… there are various threads or layers, if you like, which change.
I wrote music as soon as I knew notation.
Music is such a problem in the time it takes.
People say my music is English. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s not me writing English music, but that English music is becoming more like me.
One thing I’ve tried to do in writing music is take on very basic things, very archetypal things.
When I was confronted with official tuition, the academic thing, I could see no relationship whatever between that and the music I’d been writing since I was 11.
This sounds horribly pretentious, but I like to think that if music hadn’t existed, I could have invented it.
It’s the irrational things that interest me.
I’m not an architectural composer.
There are rhythmic ideas which sometimes only work up to a point. In writing there are moments when it just comes off the page, it’s not just a collection of notes.
I don’t think there is much American music.
You either are or you’re not.
When I was a kid, I wrote music – from the age of 11 until the age of 18.
The theatre only knows what it’s doing next week, not like the opera, where they say: What are we going to do in five years’ time? A completely different attitude.
My attitude to writing is like when you do wallpapering, you remember where all the little bits are that don’t meet. And then your friends say: It’s terrific!
I think there are influences that you open the door to, and influences that come under the door.
Minimalism now is a reaction to what came before. It’s absolutely of its time. Music moved into the set theory thing, and moved out of it.