composing & care

With this song stuck in my head, I’ve been thinking about Caroline Shaw’s contribution to the musical world.

I’ve played a couple of her pieces, including her piece for solo cello In manus tuas. And the thing that is so evident while playing her work is her attitude of care for the performer. Which, in the classical genre, I think is quite rare.

I’ve played many pieces by living (and non-living) composers with passages, that are not just difficult, but to a point– impossible….until they’re not. But I’ve often wondered– it is quite clear that composer does not want to hear these specific notes at this moment, they want to hear chaos, but because they wrote the specific notes, I have to play the specific notes. And then have thus dedicated so much time to play specific notes, when what will be heard is chaos. It can feel like the composer cared more about the notation than they did about the performer.

But, not with Shaw.

Every time I play Shaw’s work I feel cared for because I have the freedom to both refine myself as player and follow my curiosity. If Shaw wants to hear chaos, she writes it– and lets the performer decide how to get there. It is clear that Shaw values people over music, and I think that in part is what makes her music so stunning.