What does the public want to hear?

As a composer I have this eternal question: what does the public want to hear?

I do not know if that question is a good one.

However much we try to distance ourselves from the intimate date with our inner self who sings and shouts to be written, our work is not complete until a person at least hears it.  It is something like the Zen paradox of the tree that falls in the forest; the music is a message that once emitted, remains like an inert map waiting to be discovered by adventurous interpreters of art.  The notes are there, but these in turn have their strings attached–and without them our message will not yet be issued (and therefore remains silent).

While we often blindly follow the path that we technically believe is drawn by history for us to continue, our critics ask to themselves the same question about what our audience wants to hear.  This is because that depends on their existence as an industry.  Perhaps it is because they are even closer to the public to whom they direct their writing and choose the messages that suit them as interlocutors.

That is why I try to answer this question over and over again, and it becomes increasingly difficult to answer.

At the beginning it is a mixture of instinct and attention to our environment.  It is almost like tuning in a station that has the music that we want to listen to and we do not know it, but nevertheless we like it.

To follow the success of other composers is not usually the answer, even more so when the art of composing music has been increasingly devalued.

Our needs move us today more than ever to approach the youth.  The art that was once for few has today been transmitted to the masses, from Beethoven who wrote for the people about what happened in his time, through Schnittke with his apocalyptic and dystopian music (listening to him is almost like listening to heavy rock!).

We can not however follow these steps without falling into repetition and sometimes in ridicule.  It is impossible to write a work that speaks about the French revolution without sounding petulant.  That is where a little common sense enters: we have to open our minds, our ears, and our hearts–we are witnesses of the history that passes before our eyes and in that way we become journalists of the time.  We are eyewitnesses of what future generations will listen to, and that in itself is an inexhaustible source of inspiration because it unequivocally recreates what happens.  Nevertheless, we must have the sensitivity to understand and shape feelings and contradictions; not to become  pure journalists.

Nowadays, in order to study new techniques, we listen to new sounds, and we feel obliged to use them.  But, we must firmly believe that our method must be explicitly used in what the message means and be subordinate to it: to use all our methods as tools, as the goldsmith uses new technologies to achieve perfection in the art to which he is dedicated, without taking his eyes off his desired goal.

-Héctor Mendoza, Venezuelan composer; studied with Blas Emilio Atheortua and Juan Soublete; percussionist playing in an orchestra since I have memories; and conductor from “El Sistema”, educational paradigm using music as a tool for social change.

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