The press on Vespers recording

The article by David Patrick Stearns came out Wednesday, 23 July, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which you can find here. It also includes a link to audio they did for the Creatively Speaking radio show, airing Saturday at 11 am. The photos of (1) Donald conducting The Crossing and (2) Priscilla and me are the best, because I’m not in (1) and Priscilla is in (2).

The article catches the utter uniqueness and the sense of marvel we all have of the entire project, I think. Stearns includes quotes from Donald Nally and Joan Kimball that I’ll always remember. Quotes that didn’t make it in are words from me to the effect that, that any of this happened at all is due entirely to (1) Joan and (2) Bob Wiemken of Piffaro. OK, I composed for about eight months but if I had done that on my own, (1) it would not have turned into this Vespers, and besides (2) it would not have gotten all this notice. And what Donald did in (1) first preparing the premiere and (2) now navigating the recording has simply stunned me. And what a joy it is to work with (1) top professionals in their field who (2) are nice people.

One thing that Stearns wrote surprised me: “self-expression is essential to Smith’s religious music…”. I take it as a generous compliment from him (and that the piece has resonated with him or anyone is tremendously gratifying to me), but I’m surprised by it because I’ve never felt it to be true, or at least, it’s the furthest thing from my mind. I have no intention of expressing myself, in music for either sacred or for secular use. My thought only and always is to serve the text, the musicians, the listeners. That sounds awfully grand and over-the-top humble-pie-ish, but I don’t mean it to. It’s just that it’s the only thing a composer can accomplish, to serve. Besides, I don’t see that self-expression is ever held up as a goal in my religion, or in anyone else’s, for that matter, so I don’t think it’s worth bothering over.

Self-expression in any case is a chimera. It doesn’t exist. And if it does, it can’t be captured.

But that has little to do with the article, which was a delight. Our buddy Don just called from Florida and said it made me look good, so I’ll take that!

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