The plight of the expat composer

Posted on: October 14, 2010

Wednesday (10/13) on NewMusicBox, Tim Rutherford-Johnson asks, “In what sense is an American composer still ‘American’ when living overseas? … The experience that, in leaving the United States and coming to work or study as a composer in the United Kingdom, one has crossed a horizon is common enough among the American composers I have spoken with to suggest that there is something more permanent and primal separating the two countries’ music than the cost of a Virgin Atlantic airfare. … There is no discernible pattern, trend, or style under which to group those composers: Aaron Cassidy writes at the extreme boundary of the instrumental avant-garde, Bret Battey is an electroacoustic composer dealing in algorithmic and interactive music, and Arlene Sierra and David Bruce write in very different ways for traditional forces. In fact it is [Stephen] Montague, the émigré of longest tenure, who bears the closest allegiances to an easily identifiable ‘American’ tradition—that of Ives, Cowell, and Cage. … After 36 years as an expat, Montague considers that his music ‘is probably more “American” (if there is such a thing) now, no doubt because I am living in a foreign culture and wish to retain my trans-Atlantic identity.’ ”

Posted October 14, 2010