Philosophy

Interview with Tiffany Woods (2003)

In May 2003, Tiffany Woods emailed David a series of questions in the course of writing a paper. She was a student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and taking a Band Literature course with Dr. John Locke. David wrote a thorough response. The interview has been excerpted from their correspondence and interleaved here. It has been lightly edited for spelling and style.

Tiffany Woods: I’ve read your interview with saxophonist Russell Peterson and first I want to talk a little about your compositional process and you referred to what you termed “active imagining.” While to some degree this makes sense in terms of a ‘programmatic’ piece, such as A Child’s Garden of Dreams and maybe even the Mass, when you sit down to “compose a symphony” does the same concept still apply?

David Maslanka: “Active Imagining” is a term used by the psychologist Carl Jung. It is a way of moving the conscious mind into the space of the unconscious. They closest thing to it that most people do is daydreaming. The difference is in being aware that it is happening, and in finding ways to deepen the experience. The result is that it is possible to approach the unconscious directly and to ask for the direction or energy that wants to become music. The process applies equally to all kinds of music. It isn’t about whether the music has a story, but about opening the channel […]

From the Maslanka Archive – No. 35, Damon Talley’s Interview of David

From the Maslanka Archive features media and stories of David's life and work. This week, we are excited to feature one of David's very last interviews. In April of 2017, Damon Talley - Director of Bands at LSU - had the opportunity to sit down with David and discuss Symphony No. 4 during a residency with the LSU Wind Ensemble.

From the Maslanka Archive – No. 34, Julian Velasco’s Interview of Gary Green

From the Maslanka Archive features media and stories of David's life and work. This week, we are excited to feature Julian Velasco's interview of Gary Green from the Wharton Center in East Lansing, MI from October 24, 2017.

From the Maslanka Archive – No. 33, John Floridis’s Interview of David

From the Maslanka Archive features media and stories of David's life and work. This week, we are excited to feature an episode from Montana Public Radio's Musician's Spotlight featuring John Floridis interviewing David about his music and background as a composer.

From the Maslanka Archive – No. 32, Julian Velasco’s Interview of David – Part 2

From the Maslanka Archive features media and stories of David's life and work. This week, we are excited to feature Part 2 of Julian Velasco's interview of David from his home in Missoula, MT in 2016.

From the Maslanka Archive – No. 31, Julian Velasco’s Interview of David – Part 1

From the Maslanka Archive features media and stories of David's life and work. This week, we are excited to feature Part 1 of Julian Velasco's interview of David from his home in Missoula, MT in 2016.

From the Maslanka Archive – No. 30, Jim Tevenan’s Interview of David

From the Maslanka Archive features media and stories of David's life and work. This week, we are excited to feature an episode from Spokane Public Radio's From The Studio featuring Jim Tevenan interviewing David about his music. The Whitworth Wind Symphony had just performed David's Symphony No. 4.

From the Maslanka Archive – No. 29, David on Dreaming and the Unconscious Mind

From the Maslanka Archive features media and stories of David's life and work. This week, we are excited to feature a speech David gave on matters of dreaming and the unconscious mind before a performance of A Child's Garden of Dreams by the James Madison University Wind Symphony.

Music in Life

Remarks given on 18 April 2002 at Indiana University School of Music before a performance of the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble. Other works on the concert included Montana Music: Chorale Variations and Tears.

I want to give a few thoughts about how music acts in our lives. Music making is in the balance point between the conscious and unconscious minds. By way of brief illustration, the conscious part is the part we consider to be ourselves – the ego, the thinking part, the active does, the part that wakes up in the morning, and lives by the clock, and lives in a particular place, the part that has a name, and a personality, and a job.

By contrast, the unconscious part of ourselves, the part where dreams come from, does not live in time. That is, time means nothing to it. It lives in the whole universe but in no particular place. It has no personality but is life force itself. It does not have a name or a job identity, but comes forward to us as mythic forms and dreams.

Each of us has this mythic, timeless part. In mythology we are princes, kings, queens, warriors, wise men, and wise women. In a fundamental way these mythic identifications are who we really are. This part of ourselves is what allows us to identify so strongly with mythic characters, and why […]

Further notes on Music Performance

Two quotes from the scientist and philosopher Rene Dubos in his 1962 book The Torch of Life:

“A fully developed human being cannot be thought of as an isolated creature. His or her potential attributes become fully realized only when he or she functions within a social matrix, on which he or she depends, against which he or she reacts, and to which he or she contributes. From microbe to human society, life is an expression of the mutual interdependence of parts.”

“It may well turn out that the creativeness of life depends in large part, or perhaps entirely, for individual organisms to form with others, intimate associations which generate new structures and properties…. This concept applies also to man, whose spiritual development is the outcome of highly integrated social relationships.”

Music performance is not possible without the cooperation of performers, and performers with audience. Performance taps into a deep spiritual creative power. It is conscious dream time and renewal shared by all.

Music performance is one of the antidotes to the evils rampant in today’s world. It is the antithesis of modern man’s dissociation and isolation. It is the antithesis of the human capacity for killing and environmental destruction. You can’t make good music without love, which means that you accept the people with whom you are making music. This knitting together of the human community at this local point is remembered, and spreads over and beyond a lifetime. Music making is one of the true models for […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0010 April 1999|Chamber Music, Philosophy|

Music and Healing

Remarks given before a performance of Montana Music: Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano.

Music is specifically healing. I know that I am alive today, and essentially well, because of it. Healing through music is not always miraculous in the instantaneous sense, although a powerful musical experience can change a life in an instant. I have experienced this myself, and seen it happen to others. Music’s healing power is most often a life-long process, which is finally no less miraculous!

I have thought for many years about the nature of what we call inspiration – what it is, and how it enters the conscious mind. In my early years I would have the sensation of music “breaking through” my conscious mind, the sensation of the conscious mind with all its troubles and fixations parting, and letting in something from somewhere else, a powerful something which had nothing to do with my personal troubles. After receiving this force, the “normal” mind would close in again. But once one has had this experience, there is an eagerness to explore it and find it again. And through this experience comes the recognition that one has touched an amazing source, a fundamental source, of life and power. I know now that the function of the conscious mind is to attune itself to this deeper source, to be the channel for the power to come through. That need has driven this lifetime of mine, and has prompted me again and again toward health, […]

Some things that are true: Reflections on being an artist at the end of the 20th century

Society of Composers Incorporated Region VIII Conference, University of Montana at Missoula. Keynote address by David Maslanka – November 20, 1998

As soon as one speaks about “truth” there will be objections. Since we live in time and with change, it can be argued that all values and conditions are relative, and that “true” is what works best in any set of circumstances. So, in talking about truth I acknowledge the reality we live in, but I also must acknowledge the absolute values upon which our world of relative values rests.

We live in relativity, and yet music touches a timeless resonance in us, and we are drawn into perceptions that go absolutely beyond this life and this time. I think the central fascination with the feeling nature of sound and with the truth of feeling is what drew us all to music in the first place, and what continues to draw and fascinate us all our lives. I can’t defend the truth of artistic perception in any empirical way. After all the arguments about the relative or absolute nature of things, about the nature of feeling, the validity of personal feeling, the nature of human nature, there is that thing in each of us – quite beyond the quirks of personality – that perceives rightness. And when that “click of rightness” happens, we are satisfied at a soul level. I want to talk about that experience and how it has guided me in three areas: the evolution of a musical language, […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0020 November 1998|A Child's Garden of Dreams, Chamber Music, Philosophy|

Interview with Russell Peterson

Russell Peterson, professor of saxophone at Lawrence University in Appleton WI, interviewed David Maslanka on 30 November 1998 after premieres of Mountain Roads for saxophone quartet, commissioned and performed by the Transcontinental Saxophone Quartet and Song Book for alto saxophone and marimba, commissioned and performed by Steve Jordheim and Dane Richeson there. This interview touches a wide range of topics, including the composition process, David’s saxophone music, especially the Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, the relationship between the composer and the audience, working with consortia, recordings vs. live music, David’s pastel drawings, Sea Dreams, UFO Dreams, the Mass and much more. This interview was originally published in the Fall 1999 Saxophone Symposium

Russell Peterson: Today is an exciting day for saxophonists, two new pieces for saxophone by David Maslanka being premiered! How do you feel about having two new works that you’ve written come into being?

David Maslanka: It’s a lot all at once! And the bringing into place of any one thing – and both of these (Song Book and Mountain Roads) are sizable pieces, I hadn’t realized how large they were. It’s a lot of emotional work to put all of that into place. You guys do the technical end of it and prepare to your best musical ability, and of course […]

Dangerous Times

Remarks given on 29 March 1994 at Michigan State University before a performance of Symphony No. 4

It goes without saying that we live in dangerous times, and that the human family is threatened by forces within itself that it does not understand. Community is shattered, individuals are alienated, hunger, slaughter, and oppression continue and seem to be gathering momentum. Yet I want to speak of hope. I offer a quote from the book Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung. This was written in the first decade of the twentieth century, but has come to apply dramatically to our time. The first idea in this quote seems like a slap in the face, yet it is clear and true:

“Everyone who has his eyes and wits about him can see that the world is dead, cold, and unending. Never yet has he beheld a god, or been compelled to require the existence of such a god from the evidence of his senses. On the contrary, it needs the strongest inner compulsion, which can only be explained by the irrational force of instinct, for man to invent religious beliefs. In the same way one can withhold the stories of primitive myths from a child but not take from him the need for mythology, and still less his ability to manufacture it for himself.” Here is the crux of the quote: “One could almost say that if the world’s traditions were cut off at a […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:47+00:0029 March 1994|Philosophy, Symphony No. 4|

The roots and purpose of music

Remarks given at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Nov.15.1992, before a performance of Symphony No.3.

I want to give a few thoughts on the roots of music and its purpose in human life.

Music comes supposedly from the human heart and mind. These are but two of the vibratory receiving centers of the human organism. The human organism comes from Planet Earth. We say “from dust to dust.” Each body is built from the elements of Earth and is continually recycling elements from the Earth. We eat food every day. To what end? So that we have “energy”. To what end? To have feelings and ideas, to make music, and to make many other things.

Bodies are fluid, recycling every seven years, so that each of us experiences a continual interaction with Mother Earth. The source of music then, would seem to be the Earth. We come from the Earth; if we are intelligent and spiritual, then the Earth is intelligent and spiritual, and by extension, the universe is intelligent and spiritual. If the Earth is the seed, then all that we see around us is the flowering and unfolding of that seed. And all of it is in continuous, fluid, interactive motion.

Music is one voice of the Earth, and by extension, one voice of the universe. That voice rises up through this wonderful human body – a body made of cells, cells made of molecules, molecules made of atoms, atoms made of neutrons, protons, electrons, electrons made of…pure energy. […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:47+00:0015 November 1992|Chamber Music, Philosophy, Symphony No. 3|