Without a doubt, one of the most influential figures in my musical life is the pianist Judith Gordon. We met in 2008 on the Brown Farm at Music from Salem where I began my experience with new music for cello. Judith is a brilliant, inspirational performer - who, each morning, wakes those Brown Farm residents lucky enough to be within earshot of her practice room with a bit of gorgeous Bach - but even more, she is an inspirational person. Whether laughing together in a 30 degree farmhouse (with only God's most delicious elixirs to keep warm), searching used book sales for the juciest of romance novels (no judgement), or comparing (VERY eclectic) iPod playlists prior to a run/walk/bike ride, I've never felt anything but awe while with Judy.
When I was thinking of featuring folks that I admire on my blog, there were a handful of names that immediately came to mind (here, here, here), and I knew that Judith Gordon's words would be insightful, delicious, and maybe - just maybe - enough to find yourself as smitten with her as I have been for six years. Here, at long last, are her thoughts:
JD: You play quite a bit of wonderful new music. How were you first exposed to the music of our time and what drives you to continue exploring new works?
JG: VERY first exposure was c. age 16 - attending a Peabody conservatory senior piano recital where a (probably lovely) solo piece was premiered(!) - certainly my first awareness of 'new' music. My friends and I really struggled to suppress our laughing, quasi-hyperventilating - clearly like love at first sight ....only sonic.
But I didn't connect any dots and imagine playing it!
Fast-forward to attending conservatory, myself, and again love, just less skittish - of omnivore teachers and friends who played contemporary music. I did not learn angst about old "vs" new - it was all porous, it was more about what makes an intriguing program. And even today, new for the sake of New can feel tiresome ... I get happy when pieces talk to each other in any number of good ways.
JD: What are some of your pedagogical priorities?
JG: Love to think about cultivating an 'address' to music. No copying, no 'sounding like...'. Abandon YouTube! You have the tools. Or, if not, they are always accessible. Reinvent the wheel in your practice...assume nothing, aspire to everything, inhabit the score, figure out what the music is asking, how IT wants to be learned, etc….
JD: How does your practicing differ now (if at all) from your time in school?
JG: The big difference is a structural paradox - so much more access to practice space, and so much less time to do the practice. Scarcity fuels enthusiasm, in this arena!
JD: What piece of non-standard repertory should all musicians (amateurs, students, and professionals) know about?
JG: Is there really a concept of 'standard', at all, now? There's really much less of an accepted template for how to become a musician, how to be musically Literate. I don't assume that anyone has heard anything, really, OR that they haven't...no judgement! All fascinating and a little harrowing. Mostly, I want to be a cheerleader for RENDERING music, in real time, real space, at all levels. To steal affectionately from a friend, to be an advocate for Liveness. Studio recordings can sacrifice a certain eloquence of Placement. I've recorded little beyond videos on the phone for friends.
JD: What advice do you have for all students that you wish someone had given you when you were in school?
JG: Hard to answer - I had wonderful and fun guardian angels - but to synthesize it somehow, the kaleidoscope of technical/presentational/psychological/etc, one overarching thing might be all possible meanings of:
FEAR NO MUSIC!