May 27, 2016

Composer Profile: David Goodman

by Mark Carlson

In 1999, we commissioned and premiered our first piece by David Goodman, his Piano Quartet, a piece which our audience clearly loved. I swear that they were dancing down the aisles as they left the concert. I started our conversation by asking David how things were different with him as a composer than they were 17 years ago.

“I think I’m more comfortable with writing what I want to write now.” Part of that he credits to his 19-year tenure as a professor of music theory and composition at Santa Monica College, a position he sees as allowing him to be an outsider to the larger new music scene. At SMC, he is free to follow whatever aesthetic path he chooses without the pressures many composers at big four-year schools feel in producing music that will be accepted within the confines of that world.

One recent work of his is a large-scale piece for chorus and orchestra, Prayers for the Planet, which was the result of his second Ilona Katz Chair of Excellence from the Santa Monica College Foundation. Ilona Katz was a patron of SMC, and her award became a commission to write Prayers for the Planet, which has as its central theme the issue of global and human responsibility. The piece received its world premiere in June of 2011 by the SMC Concert Chorale and the Los Angeles Concert Orchestra under the direction of Dr. James Smith.

Since teaching is clearly very important to him, I asked him about the relationship of his teaching to his composing, and he said the following:

“I think that teaching is an honorable profession, one which gives us more inspiration than if we were just artisan composers. Facing a class twice a week and having to inspire them is invigorating to me, and it positively impacts my music. In the classroom, I teach the music that I really like—lots of early 20th century music, for example—and this reinforces my habits.

“Teaching is really significant, also, because it shows you how much you are connected to people, people we watch go through their training for two years in school, and then beyond. Composing is also about making connections with people. Seeing the whole process of writing a piece from beginning to end is very fulfilling, and the connection it creates with other people is so important to me. I’m never writing music that panders to any audience, but I believe that music should be visceral, tangible, and connective.”

About Walking Music, David said, “This was a great opportunity to rekindle my composing after a few years’ hiatus. It’s always a plus to have an extra-musical inspiration, and Mary Bomba’s request that the piece relate to her husband Tom’s love of walking was a very fun subject.

“I’m very happy with what I have written, and I hope the players will enjoy playing it. I’ve had so much fun writing this piece, and I’m just thrilled to be involved in this concert. Your commission to write Walking Music was a real catalyst for me. A new senior-mid-life crisis is averted!”