Off the Record


Well, a few people close and dear to me took a look at my web site and said the same thing: "It's too 'professional'. Nothing personal!". So, here's a page dedicated to the lighter side. The Op/Ed, Leisure section if you will.

First of all, an FAQ section is certainly in order since, as a composer, I often get asked the same 5 or 10 questions immediately after telling someone what it is that I do. So, without further ado;

Frequently Asked Questions!

1. What kind of music do you write?

Probably the hardest question to answer, because the usual asker (uncles and aunts, students in my Intro to Music History classes) has no knowledge of the history of 'classical' music, let alone 20th century music. My quick and easy answer is always, "Unpopular Music". A flippant answer, but in a way it sums it up pretty accurately.

2. Who's your favorite composer/What's your favorite piece?

Another tough one. I really don't like the words 'favorite' or 'best'. I don't think one can take the St. Matthew's Passion and Cage's Music of Changes and put them on the same scale. It's silly! They're barely the same medium at all. So, I usually answer the question as if it had been asked, "What composers/pieces have been influential to you and your music?". Well, I'd have to say that the one composer that never fails to inspire me to write music is Beethoven. Predictable answer, huh? Well, sorry to vote the party line, but it's true. Over-played, over-romanticized, over-blown Beethoven is a huge influence on me, and always has been. Which pieces? The late quartets, the Grosse Fuge, the Piano Sonatas (especially Opp. 101, 109, 110), and certainly the symphonies. Another composer that has a profound influence on me is Bartok. The quartets, the piano music, the orchestral music from the Op. 12 pieces to the Concerto for Orchestra; All of it strikes that chord of awe in me.

3. But what about modern composers?

Yes, of course I listen to living composers, but for some reason they don't exude the same influence on me and my work. But what living composers do I care for? Well, of course there's Ligeti (another party line answer. Sean and I have a theory that Ligeti is the un-hate-able composer: Complex composers, minimalists, composers of all nations. . . they all love him!), Kurtag, Carter, Babbitt, Feldman (not living I know, but Post WWII), Cage (ditto). One living composer I have a great respect for is John Zorn. I think his work is brilliant. Naturally, I've forgotten many. One of the reasons I don't like these types of questions, you always leave out an obvious one or two. . .or three.

4. Do you only listen to 'classical' music?
Hardly!! I'd be cheating myself out of a world of great music by being a 'classical music snob'. So, who do I like outside of the Carnegie Hall circuit? Too many to name, but I'll try to list some of the biggies. Of course Tom Waits, both the early bar-room material as well as his newer, more (insert adjective here) music. I find Beck to be the new Dadaist flag holder, a movement that's been ripe for revival for a decade. Joni Mitchell's music has a special place in my heart, especially the 'Hejira' period, between 1970 and 1977 (look on my List of Works, I even named a piece of mine after her). Bjork's last album is, in my opinion, a stroke of genius. Esquivel makes my jaw drop. The Shaggs caught my attention recently, thanks to Art of the EAR Unit. But the music that has really invaded my CD player lately is Stevie Wonder and James Brown. Funk-y! And then there's non-western music! Indian Ragas, Qawalli music of Pakastan, Chinese and Japanese traditional musics, Gamelan music from the Indonesian Islands. Not to mention the treasure chest of Irish/Celtic music! . . . Rachmaninov was right, "Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime isn't enough for music."

5. What do you do besides music?
Cooking! Edgar Varese always told his students that the art form closest to composing is cooking, and I tend to agree with that. If you want to check out the web site of another one of my influences, click here. And here's a recipe or two for you! I also dabble in a lot of other interests, and Iíve been know to be one of those ďInto it today, donít care about it tomorrowĒ type of personalities. Music has been the only constant in my short life. Would you believe me if I said one of my first loves was juggling and circus arts?? Next time you catch me at the supermarket, hand me 5 lemons and see what I can do. Right now Iím very much into card games, especially Blackjack and Poker. On a very similar note, Iíve just begun studying the world of stock trading and investments. The two really have a lot in common.

6. So what's with 'barton' anyway?

Ah, it all started so innocently. . .When I first started up my AOL account I noticed that few people used their real names. At the time, I was using the name Barton Fink as my pen name (Composition competitions often require scores to be submitted with a pseudonym). Barton Fink is the title of a wonderful movie by the Coen Brothers, the guys who made 'Raising Arizona' and 'Fargo'. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. Hence the screen name Barton36. The 36 will remain a mystery. . . I've since changed my alter-ego when entering competitions, but Barton's stuck for e-mail and web purposes.