On November 2nd, Seymour Barab and I had a wonderful phone conversation and he graciously answered questions from LMR Members. I was in the Boston, MA airport on my way back to Oxford, MS from the 2013 National College Music Society Conference, where I had presented a lecture recital “21st Century Approach to Classical Music (a multimedia recital of vocal music). Every time I talk with Barab, I am motivated by his energy and humor.
LMR Member: Do you think composers need to be versatile or have one distinct writing style?
Barab: “No quite the reverse. I think I see more and more, that composers have to be versatile in their writing style and in the kinds of pieces that they write. Composers need to be able to write jazz more and more, not as one distinct writing style, but part of it. I personally find it necessary to have more than one writing style. I figure I am just a normal example of a composer.”
LMR Member: What do you like best about writing for singers?
Barab: “That you don’t write abstract music for singers. You have the text and it makes it simpler. The words suggest music. “
LMR Member: Which Parody do you like the best and why?
Barab: “I like them all equally, because they are all my children.”
LMR Member: When did you decide to focus on composition?
Barab: “The day I realized that I was never going to be a better cellist than Yo- Yo Ma. “
LMR Member: When performing a piece like “Thirst” from Jewish Music from Oy to Vey, how seamless do you expect the transition to be between the spoken and sung text (finding a balance between diction and tone quality)?
Barab: “I think it’s an interpretation problem whether there is a pause. Listen to a record of any musical comedy. Musical comedy is based on the theatrics. I wrote this from the basic approach of any musical comedy.”
Barab saw Resnik perform for the first time when he was 20 years old and she was 21 years old. Resnik was already singing with the Metropolitan Opera and Barab says, “She was a phenomenon!”
Note: You can watch Regina Resnik (1922-2013) and Michael Philip Davis performing “Thirst” on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R5mOs9QJmA).
-Nancy Maria Balach, LMR Creator and Editor