Despite spending a week or so being nervous about Saturday’s John Corigliano masterclass, I think it went pretty well. I presented Falling up the down escalator, a saxophone quartet that H2 has recorded. The format of the masterclass was very different from the one John Adams described on his blog last week. Corigliano was not interested in his or anyone else’s opinions about the music. “That’s meaningless,” he said. He wanted to demonstrate to us what musical material people were able to observe and retain after one hearing. After all, in most situations, that’s all anyone is likely to hear a new piece of music.
He separated the audience into two groups for each piece: a group who had heard the work before and a group who hadn’t. The latter group he liked to call “the innocents,” and the masterclass mostly took the form of a focus group discussion. After each piece, Corigliano asked, “What did you hear?” He wasn’t interested in what anybody liked or didn’t like. He wanted their empirical observations about the materials, their development, and the form. It was a nice little experiment that proved one of the things that Dr. Lorenz has told me before: anytime you feel like you’re really beating the audience over the head with an idea, you’re only beginning to make it clear.”
Toward the end of the observation discussion for each piece, he allowed himself to slip into a few opinions. He told me the disintegrating ending of my quartet was “really quite lovely” and that it was a “great piece.” Not much to snip out and put on a website or anything, but I’ll take it.