The Past is in the Future

For many modern composers the main goal that they strive towards is to find their own voice and style. In many ways they are inspired by past composers, mentors, and the world around them. In the case of Missy Mazzoli, the young female composer grew up in a small rural community, only hearing music of composers who had long passed away. However, upon leaving to New York, she felt inspired by her environment and the world today to create music that can only exist in our modern era. At a young age, Mazzoli’s biggest inspirations were the greats of classical and romantic music, Beethoven in particular. She felt a great connection to the drama of his music and is still influenced by him and other composers of the past. Her writing clearly shows that she has learned from them but her style shows that she is not writing to become a part of that narrative. When Mazzoli moved to New York, she experienced a new, enriching and “nourishing” environment that she could feed off of when she composed.

Mazzoli has created a form of classical music that incorporates pop culture influences while maintaining the instrumentation of classical literature. Her all female pop group “Victoire” has fused the the two styles together to create an all new take on classical. Her group brings classical music into the new era with minimalistic motives, striking music videos, and sometimes, edgy lyrics.

One of Mazzoli’s albums with Victoire, “Vespers for a New Dark Age”, has been a major curve ball towards traditional classical by taking the idea of music that typically comes from a sacred tradition of evening prayers and twisting it to fit into the world we live in. She stated in an interview that she likes to take sounds that are familiar and combine them with things that are unfamiliar to defy the expectations of her listeners. By combining classical instrumentation and vocal style with secular text and various percussion instruments, she has broken the status quo of what a traditional vesper song would typically be. Mazzoli described the work as “blasphemous” with its unorthodox style and lyrics. The poems she chose seemed to be narrated by someone struggling with their relationship with God because of the modern world around them.

As a professor of composition, Mazzoli inspires her students to go beyond tradition and create their own. She encourages her students to experiment and try new things. Mazzoli has felt that as a teacher of composition she should not be producing students that sound like her, but that she needs to “create the next generation of really innovative artists”.

With her innovation in incorporating technology into her music, fusing pop culture with classical culture, and putting modern twists on staples of the past, Mazzoli has created her own tradition in music as we know it. Mazzoli respects, and has been inspired by the composers of the past, but seeks a new approach to composition for musicians in this day and age. Her music reflects on the past but continuously looks to the future.

-Michelle Shaheen

Works cited:

Filmkraft. “Impromptu Episode 4: Missy Mazzoli.” YouTube. January 14, 2019. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly-lTXg025c.

Midgette, Anne. “Steeped in Guns N’ Roses and Philip Glass, Missy Mazzoli is a Leading Composer of her Generation,” Washington Post, January 12, 2018. http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A522671447/OVIC?u=txshracd2603&sid=OVIC&xid=18c4425b (accessed 27 Mar. 2019).

School, The New. “Missy Mazzoli: Radical Composition | The New School.” YouTube. September 24, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWu806TQK1E.

Staff, NPR. “A Young Composer’s Evening Prayers For Troubled Times.” NPR. March 28, 2015. https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/03/28/395529459/a-young-composers-evening-prayers-for-troubled-times (accessed March 27, 2019).

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