IIRY Podcast: 27. Augusta Read Thomas: “Music is so much bigger.”
A chat with composer Augusta Read Thomas, about the importance of "breaking down every wall" and composing for beatboxer, Nicole Paris.

In my conversation with composer Augusta Read Thomas, she expresses her heartfelt support of Black Lives Matter; her empathy for the performer in her compositions; why the music profession should be “wildly diverse”; and the three things that one needs to be an excellent composer.

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Augusta Read Thomas

2:40 – Augusta makes a statement about Black Lives Matter and says “it’s profoundly urgent that we finally, hopefully, this time, make things better.”

3:44 – How Augusta got started in music.

6:40 – How she brings “enormous empathy” for the player when she is writing music.

7:10 – Why “Jazz is the great American music” and her obsessions with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.

8:21 – “I don’t see any reason why the profession of music should be anything but wildly diverse….Music is so much bigger.”

11:00 – “I love music!” Augusta talks about collaboration and the range of her output.

Luciano Berio

15:23 – Augusta talks about her opera, Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun, which features the “astonishing” beatboxer, Nicole Paris. “Opera should be able to include all voices.”

20:06 – How the large majority of people who make music on the planet don’t read music and the importance of “breaking down every wall,” “deep collaboration,” and the integration of art forms. “Come with your creative courage. Be crazy, let’s go!”

24:09 – Why Augusta never encounters “creative blocks.””Every piece I’ve ever written starts as an improvisation.”

26:32 – Why music is Augusta’s main source of inspiration and why she also loves poetry. “The reason I write music is to give thanks.”

31:59 – Augusta talks about her love of and dedication to teaching.

33:04 – The three things one needs to be an excellent composer.

34:57 – How Augusta started the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago as well as her robust volunteerism and citizenship within the music profession.

Tania Leon

39:35 – “I’ve worked so hard for so long; I’ve worked as hard as anybody.”

41:43 – “I look forward to a time when we can all be together and can make music together.” The challenges of the COVID pandemic for musicians, especially for performers.

44:15 – Augusta’s advice to young people: “What do you want to do? Be true to yourself. Always be honest. Look for integrity in your own work and your own life. Be generous to others. And work toward extreme excellence.”

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