Playing with Language

My compositions are grounded in the cultivated traditions of Western art music. However, much of my favorite art music—from the Renaissance to the present—uses stylistic mixtures. Such mixed styles enrich cultivated practice by incorporating musical elements from other traditions—whether folk, popular, archaic, or exotic.

In Sin and Syntax Constance Hale calls “the pop, the vernacular, and the mongrel tongues” the most playful forms of language. She writes that “the highbrow and the lowbrow define the exciting edges of prose...the middlebrow dooms it to mediocrity.”

Middle styles are expected styles, short on surprises and panache. I love working with mixed vocabularies—doing so creates opportunities for surprising, playful twists of language. Playing with musical materials connected to deeply-rooted traditions also creates opportunities for unexpected convergences and striking transformations.

I agree with the thoughts expressed by Dylan Thomas below. I think composers sometimes need to enjoy themselves by joyfully playing with their materials.

I am a painstaking, conscientious, involved and devious craftsman in words...I use everything and anything to make my poems work and move in the directions I want them to: old tricks, new tricks . . . Every device there is in language is there to be used if you will. Poets have got to enjoy themselves sometimes, and the twistings and convolutions of words, the inventions and contrivances, are all part of the joy that is part of the painful, voluntary work.
—Dylan Thomas