An INTRODUCTION to SEARCH on the Occasion of EVENT I

by Roger Reynolds

"The Musical Future: Three Prospects"

Copyright © 2000 Roger Reynolds and the Composition Area, Department of Music
University of California, San Diego
Published by Permission

Online publishing and editing by Karen Reynolds
All Rights Reserved.

[15 April 2000, University of California, San Diego]

Today we embark on an impractical, radically motivated, and demanding quest: to learn what we can about how selected members of the international community of composers see our (increasingly) common future. Many who have learned of SEARCH assume – mistakenly – that it is, simply, a practical matter. It's thought that we are, as a matter of fact, asking this question: "which individual from the (one would have to wonderingly admit) very large number of composers now active on this planet, which individual among them would we now like to have among us here at UCSD." But let's be clear at the outset that consideration of that question will come later. Much later. That's not why we're here now, today.

We are here now to listen – for other insights, other perspectives, other strategies than those we already know, about our (that is about composers') circumstance in this very new millennium. We have thought long and carefully in selecting those from whom we wish to hear. And we are still listening to advice about future invitees: to each other; to our faculty colleagues here in this Department (which our first Chairman, Will Ogdon once referred to with satisfaction, and in the UCSD catalog, as a "peculiar" program); we're also listening to our admired and feisty group of graduate and undergraduate composers; we're listening to others nationally and internationally whose counsel we value.

Accompanying the dizzying wealth of prospects open to us now (though each, of course, has its costs), there are, it must be allowed, many troubling questions, questions about the state of and prospects for music, questions that each individual among us, and we as a larger community surely must respond to. The four of us, Chaya Czernowin, Roger Reynolds, Rand Steiger, and Chinary Ung, have been listening here and in our travels, but have not yet heard voice given to the perspectives we sense are there to be discovered. And so, today, with the first of five planned EVENTS, we begin a more deliberate process of our own – hearing from invited VISITORS, what they believe the questions to be, the responses to entail.

We can say with unmitigated candor that we have no clear idea where this SEARCH will lead us. But, at the end of three years, we are certain to have more to consider than we do at present. The process of seeking the counsel of our colleagues here, everywhere, is one that we feel good about undertaking. It is not a step taken with an expected outcome in mind; rather a venturing up a path which affirms our common belief that the creation of meaningful, carefully-made, and disconcerting music remains a possible and a worthy center for an individual's life. And will remain...


Our heartfelt thanks to all the VISITORS who have already accepted our invitation – for their willingness to join us, and share so openly, so generously in this process. The first is Robert Ashley. I've known him for decades, admired, been touched, and delighted (and not infrequently disconcerted) by what he says, what he does, what he is.

To disconcert: to disturb the self-possession of; to ruffle; to perplex, bewilder, or discomfit.

In December of 1961, just after the publication of John Cage's seminal book Silence, I interviewed this unique American master in Bob's Ann Arbor living room (He, among our ONCE group, had the best microphone.). During the course of this interview, Bob made this comment:

It seems to me that your influence on contemporary music, on 'musicians,' is such that the entire metaphor of music could change to such an extent that – time being uppermost as a definition of music – the ultimate result would be a music that wouldn't necessarily involve anything but the presence of people. That is, it seems to me that the most radical redefinition of music that I could think of would be one that defines 'music' without reference to sound... Let me put it this way. We might have a piece from which one participant would come, and, upon being questioned, would say that the occasion was marked by certain sounds. Another person might say that he didn't remember any sounds. There was something else. But they would both agree that a performance of music had taken place

Radical though he was, Cage was nevertheless unprepared for such a perspective. He tried, as we do, to convert it into something more familiar. This aspect of Ashley – the cultivation of a body of opinion and work not easily digested – has been a signature feature of his productive and singular career. Three hours from now, we will all agree that something has happened, but I doubt that we'll agree on what it means. Surely it will have been a kind of music.

I can't imagine anyone whom I would rather be welcoming now to begin our SEARCH.