Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fanfare: 'Defining Self: Adolphus Hailstork in Interview'

Naxos 8.559722 (2012)

Sergio Mims provides a link to a very informative Fanfare Magazine interview with Adolphus C. Hailstork (b. 1941), who is featured at

FANFARE Magazine
Defining Self: Adolphus Hailstork in Interview
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Written by Colin Clarke   
Friday, 23 November 2012
Back in Fanfare 33:1 (September/October 2009), I reviewed a disc of piano music by the memorably named composer Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork III. And a very positive review it was, so much so that it was suggested I interview the composer for this august journal. There is a certain sense of privilege associated with making contact with someone who has spent time studying with such luminaries as David Diamond and Nadia Boulanger, of course.
One can see immediately that Diamond is vital to the American composer lineage, whereas Boulanger was simply a truly great teacher. I asked Hailstork about what he learned from them. From Boulanger, it was “mental and physical discipline are two principles I observed while spending one summer as a student at Fontainebleau. Mme. Boulanger required us to memorize (almost instantly) and solfège through Bach preludes and fugues. Musical multitasking (with the Hindemith “Basic Training for Musicians” as the text) was used to train the mind and muscles to do several things simultaneously. At an afternoon open class I witnessed a remarkable demonstration: one of her year-round students was instructed to begin a Bach fugue, and while playing the theme of the first measure, he recited the notes of the second measure! On another occasion, in a class, while discussing a Schubert piano sonata, she exclaimed, “Listen to how Schubert orchestrated that chord!” Now, at that time, I had never linked orchestration with piano writing (though we know that orchestral coloring is commonly associated with Beethoven’s writing for the instrument). What I took away from that class was the notion that we composers should pay careful attention to the voicing, the distribution of sound in every chord, that a C-Major triad is a particularly voiced C-Major triad.
“I finished my master’s thesis in 1966 under the guidance of David Diamond at the Manhattan School of Music. What I most remember from my lessons with him was not a technique, but an attitude. I had picked up a tendency to pretty strictly follow what I considered the ‘rules and guidelines’ of composition laid down (or even suggested) by earlier teachers. But Mr. Diamond would counter my ‘this has to do such and such a thing’ with a short and snappy question ‘Who says?’ Wow.

“That was when I began to question musical ‘lawgivers’ and began judging for myself. I began to develop some mental toughness and self-reliance which would serve me well during the “mandatory modernism” and experimentalist push, which were part of the 1960s and 1970s. On a technical note, Diamond taught me to listen more carefully to the flow of the lines and chords to discover where they were leading, rather than to impose a particular arrival point upon them.”   

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