S.C. ...music cannot live in a vacuum,
even an esoteric vacuum. It lives and breaths, it interacts
with the world around it, and the world listens to it and
likes it or hates it - you cannot be indifferent to it ! For
me, composing, the act of writing music, is therefore rooted
in the land and the people that surround me, here, or in my
past. I could never have imagined the music I now write if I
had only read about Lake Simcoe, where I now live, and not
experienced it. And of course my European heritage is also
there, shaping my musical language.
K.Z. I knew you before as Steeve
SRAWLEY. Now you sign your works Steeve CHWOJKO. Why ?
S.C. Do you know who Ms Wieck
was ? She was a nineteenth-century composer who signed
her compositions with the name "Schumann." Why did she do
that ? Because she married Robert ! I both love tradition
and hate it. I married a Polish girl called "Chwojko", and
tradition says we should have the same name (I love that).
Tradition also says she should take my name because she is
now my property. And so I took her name...
K.Z. When I
am writing a story I hear the words in my head before I see
them on the page. How can you write notes on the page before
you hear an orchestra play them ?
S.C. Music is a language. Before you can speak it, you must
learn it by listening, by understanding what other composers
are saying. You do this from the day you are born. When you
start writing your own music, naturally it sounds like other
composers, but soon you are having original ideas and you
"hear" your idea with, say, an alto flute, a tuba and a
viola. Why those instruments ? Because that is the sound
that is running through your head. When you
write a story, you do the same ! One character hisses in a
low voice, another is hesitant, unsure of themselves. The
parallel is exact. To answer your question: the orchestra is
playing in my head. I merely write down the music that runs
K.Z. I see you have a laptop computer.
Do you compose your music directly on the screen ?
S.C. At first, I had a prejudice against the use of the
computer in any stage of the compositional process. It has
no soul ! Then one day, when I saw that I had forgotten a
measure in the middle of the final copy of a composition, I
realized that the sheet of paper and the pencil stub have no
soul either, but that didn't stop me using them to compose.
And so I started to use the computer to write the 'fair
copy' of a piece. Pretty soon I saw that the computer is
simply another form of paper and pencil - and a much more
convenient one, because it takes care of the 'house-keeping'
side of the process of composing: lining up the notes,
adding a measure in the middle of a phrase, switching a part
from one instrument to another... Its limitation, and it's a
big one, is the aural reproduction of a phrase you have
written. The use of sounds while writing notes on a computer
is a big, big mistake. Why ? This comes back to the
statement I made earlier - the computer has no soul. It
translates your "piano-half-note-A4-at-mm.69-on-the-oboe"
This will only bring tears to your eyes if you happen to be
eating an onion as you listen. Moreover, the auralisation of
a forty-stave score goes beyond the memory capacity of
almost any domestic computer, rendering a grossly distorted
output. Computers are a wonderful tool for composition, just
so long as you do not try to listen to what you are writing.
Be like Beethoven, be deaf to real sounds. Just listen to
the sounds in your soul, since you may well have one !