Composer / Pianist  Elinor  Remick  Warren

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie




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See my Interviews with Gian Carlo Menotti.





Back in the pre-internet days, when there was no e-mail nor video-chatting via Skype, communication was done mostly by letter (now called snail-mail) and telephone (now called land-lines).  It was in this now-cumbersome manner that I made contact with composer Elinor Remick Warren.  I was working for WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago, and asked her to do an interview with me on the phone.  She was reluctant at first, but finally agreed, and we spoke for about an hour early in 1987.  In the end she was pleased, and I was able to present her music and thoughts on the air.  After the first of these programs, I sent her an air-check cassette, and the second letter shown below is her lovely response.


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As this conversation is being prepared for my website presentation in the spring of 2016, we have pretty much gotten to the point where gender is mostly irrelevant
— save for the ongoing surprise of some in the audience when they realize a work has been written (or is being conducted) by a woman.  Even when this interview took place (almost thirty years before), the bias and equality issues were well on their way to being eliminated.  I mention this simply to say that we discussed it first to simply dispose of the topic, after which we moved along to the standard discussion about composition, technique, philosophy, performances, etc. . . . . . . . .


Bruce Duffie:    First, let me ask you about your name.  How do you wish me to refer to you on the air?

Elinor Remick Warren:    I’d rather you use Elinor Remick Warren.  I wrote my first piece when I was still in high school, so I started out as being Elinor Remick Warren, and still am Elinor Remick Warren.  Though I’m very happy to be Mrs. Wayne Griffin, and socially of course I use nothing but that, but professionally I have always used Elinor Remick Warren.  I’ve kind of wished sometimes that I had been wiser about it.  If I had been a little older I would have thought about that and called myself Remick Warren, because then it would not be designated purely as a woman.  I’ve had trouble with publishers.  Two publishers put
E. R. Warren on the cover, and when I asked about it they said that people like to not designate me as a woman.  This was some time ago, and fortunately that is changing.

BD:    Would you rather be known as a woman composer or just a composer?

ERW:    I don’t like to be pigeon-holed.  [Both laugh]  You’re a composer or you’re not a composer, and I prefer to be known as a composer
although I’m very proud to be a woman composer.  I like being a woman very much, and I like all the joys and fullness of life that has brought mehaving my family and children, and my wonderful husband for so many years.  In a way I think it’s unfortunate if too many people are just classified as Women Composers, and there are too many concerts of just women composers.  This puts you off in a little niche.

BD:    Are things getting better for the woman composer?

warren ERW:    Oh, I think so, yes.  Maybe that’s a good thing but I don’t like it any more than I would like any kind of segregation.  I’m very proud to be a woman but I don’t like to be viewed just as a ‘woman composer’.

BD:    You are a composer and pianist.  Are you also a teacher?

ERW:    No, I’ve never taught.  I don’t think I have that talent.  That’s a distinct talent.  As a child growing up I had a wonderful teacher, and I think that’s a gift which can be imparted to people.  I don’t think I’d be a very good teacher.  I don’t know the techniques for teaching.  I never had to teach.  My husband was a businessman, and I didn’t have to teach.  I really didn’t have time to teach.  I had three children to raise...

BD:    Were you composing all that time?

ERW:    Oh, yes, all the time.

BD:    How do you balance the demands of a family and the demands of composing?

ERW:    God was good to me for the wonderful husband I had for forty-five years, whom I just lost in 1981.  He was very, very musical himself
a good musician, though not professionally.  He had studied music and had a lovely voice, and he was tremendously interested in doing everything to help me.

BD:    So he was very supportive then?

ERW:    Oh, very, and I was supportive of him.  He was a business man, and earlier he was a producer of radio, and later television.  He was just knowledgeable of music, and he produced programs until he had to take over my father’s business.  So I didn’t have to teach, and I composed because I loved it.  I loved to compose.  I composed not to make a living, fortunately, because it’s a little rough.  A lot of people are good teachers, and they have the ability to teach.  That’s very fortunate for the people who can study with them, but I never thought of teaching.  I’ve been asked to teach lots of times, including by my own grand-children, but no, no, no!  I don’t have time.

BD:    Just as a general idea, is musical composition something that can be taught or must it be innate?

ERW:    The techniques, of course, and certain things can be taught, but I don’t think you can teach a person to compose.  When I was in high school, we had to write a lyric and we had to write a sonnet, and I learned how to do it.  There’s a certain technique, even in novels.  There a certain form that must be solid, and you can teach form and harmony and all that, which gives one a great understanding and enjoyment of music.  But I don’t think you can teach someone to compose, other than just as an example of how to learn and appreciate others composing.  It has to be instinctive to be a good composer.  One must have some knowledge of form and counterpoint and orchestration, but you can’t be armed with all that study and then be just expected to produce things that are going to be interesting.

BD:    Where is the balance between inspiration and technique?

warren ERW:    You have to have inspiration to be a good composer.  I felt it so much that there were times when I’ve been writing
even when my children were little so I had lots of other demands — that I could hardly wait for the next day to begin working again.  There was something I felt that was inside that I had to express, that I wanted to write.  It’s always been a joyful experience for me.

BD:    These are things that you had felt you had to write, but you’ve also gotten many commissions?

ERW:    I have some, yes, but I’ve turned down some too because I didn’t ever want to write to order.  Sometimes someone would give me a commission, and if it appealed to me I would say yes.  But I’ve turned down quite a few because I just didn’t think they were right for me.  For instance, there was a commission that was quite interesting for a ballet, but I don’t know enough about the techniques of ballet, and at that time I didn’t feel that I was interested that much in getting into it.  I have written a lot of things upon request, and for certain conductors, and also real big commissions, but I didn’t do it because I had to earn the money.  I’ve written because I loved it and I wanted to write.  I’ve been writing since I was five years old.

BD:    So when you’re writing a piece you don’t have the pressure of deadlines?

ERW:    Well, sometimes you do, yes!  There is always somebody who wants to do the work in the May Festival, and it’s already March!  [Both laugh]  So if you think you can do it, fine, if it hits you that strongly right away.  But I don’t think that it can be done like doing a page of mathematics for tomorrow’s lesson.  Nothing like that.

BD:    Have you ever come upon a deadline and felt that the music wasn’t ready yet?

ERW:    I’ve come a little close to it once or twice!  But they’ve worked out all right.  I’ve usually tried to allow myself enough time so I wouldn’t be so pushed.  I could have done a greater quantity if I hadn’t had my family and certain responsibilities that came with it.  My family always was first.

BD:    Is that the way it should be?

ERW:    It should because in my case they’ve been so supportive.  I remember one time I caught my husband saying to the children when they were young,
Now remember, if you break a leg, then you can go and call your mother from her studio; but otherwise you don’t dare call her!  [Huge laugh]  They’ve been very helpful.  My family’s just been wonderful.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    When you’re writing a piece of music, how do you know when it is finished?

ERW:    It seems you have a certain form in mind from the start.  You have a plan, and you work through it and carve it.  I just never question how would I know.  I just know!

BD:    Do you ever go back and revise your scores?

ERW:    Sometimes.  I’ve heard my music and thought,
Oh this is going to work out to a wonderful climax.  Then they go on and it never seems right.  I’m a tinkerer, I’m sorry to say.  But I’ve done a lot and learned a lot by doing this, and finally the time comes when you have to say, “Now this is done and you’re not going to do any more.  But you keep looking at it with an inquiring mind, and so I have made revisions which I’ve felt I’m very glad I did.

BD:    Was this before or after the first performance?

ERW:    Both.  There was one work that was done in Greece with the Athens Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Singers.  It’s a long work, a big work, and I just wasn’t satisfied with it.  I didn’t have time to revise it because too many things came to interrupt it.  I was asked to write this or that, but several years later I did revise the whole thing.  Usually performances are a great help.  They are great teachers, and that’s the composer’s dilemma because so often they don’t find opportunities to hear their works.  I’ve been very fortunate and I’ve heard some by lesser orchestras and some by great orchestras, and I’ve always felt I’ve learned from it.

BD:    Have you generally been pleased with the performances you have heard of your music?

ERW:    Well, of course, the better the musicians that are doing it, the more pleased I am, naturally.  [Laughs]  They vary, especially the singers, but sometimes the college groups give very excellent performances, too.  I’ve been very fortunate in having a number of my works for chorus, and for chorus with orchestra, sung so much that I’ve learned a lot about composition in general.  In fact, I learn about the vocal line from hearing them, too.  You have to keep going.  You want to keep going, and the more you do them, the better it gets. 

BD:    Do performers ever find things in your scores that you didn’t know where there?

ERW:    I hope I know my own works well enough that there are few surprises.

BD:    So you are never surprised by what you hear?

ERW:    I’m surprised at the performances sometimes, but not with the music. 

warren BD:    Let’s talk about singers.  You write a lot for the voice...

ERW:    Yes, I have.  The reason I was attracted from the start was I always wanted to be a singer, and I love singing.  I’m very fond of it, and heard so many wonderful concerts that my mother and father took me to hear as a child.  I always wanted to sing but I don’t have a voice!  So I think that’s why I turned to writing for the voice, simply to learn more about the techniques of it.  Then when I first went to New York and was studying there, I was very fortunate in playing either as piano soloist or accompanist for a good number of very great Metropolitan singers.  I learned so much just from hearing them and knowing the principles of vocal music.  I found out what was practical and what wasn’t, and because they had their own techniques you have to think about in writing for the voice.  I found it very, very helpful.

BD:    Who were some of the great names that you played for?

ERW:    Lawrence Tibbett, Richard Crooks, Florence Easton, Bidú Sayão, Rose Bampton... lots of people.  [See my Interview
Bidú Sayão, and my Interview with Rose Bampton.]  I learned a great deal from association with them too, not always just playing for them, but hearing them sing my songs.  I’ve learned a lot about how one can go, and what is their possibilities and their problems are.  Human voices are very fragile things, and you have to think constantly of their technical demands and all their problems.  And of course, in a song it’s important to choose the right words that are singable.  You can’t just set any poem because you happen to like the poem.  It has to be somewhat singable.  The words have to be projected.  You have to write them so that the singer can project them, otherwise it’s no good.  The listeners have to get it the first time they hear it, so it means the singer has to have very singable songs.  They choose them that way.

BD:    As accompanist of your own works, are you the ideal interpreter of your own music?

ERW:    Well, I don’t know.  That’s for other people to decide.  Of course, on this new recording that I’ve just done there are twenty-six of my songs, and they keep saying that they will be the definitive recordings!  I don’t know... maybe somebody did do it better, but I think that it’s interesting to have the composer’s interpretation.  Usually I’ve always found singers wanting to say,
Now tell me about this!  What do you want down here?  How do you feel about the tempo?  They usually want the composer to offer suggestions.

BD:    Do you offer them?

ERW:    Yes!  Yes, I do.  I offer ideas such as,
“This is a little fast, or, I think it should go along, or the way I feel about the interpretation.  I don’t say this must be done so-and-so because I think everybody has to have their own individual expression too.  That can happen even in orchestral works, only there you’re not asked so much.  You don’t have the opportunity, and maybe they will see it differently.  That’s interesting.  The conductor sets the interpretation, and I’ve been very fortunate in being pleased with most of the ones I have heard.

BD:    Staying with the songs for a moment, do you ever write your own text?

ERW:    No!  I must confess I did twice, but I used a nom de plume!  [Laughs]  It’s where I just had to.  They were circumstances where I had to write something, so I did.  But I never put my own name because I’m not a poet!

BD:    What name did you use, or do you not want to divulge that?

ERW:    I used two of my grandparents’ names in these cases.  But it doesn’t make any difference about that because it wasn’t as if I was trying to deceive anyone.  But I do not claim to be a poet.  These are just two isolated cases of mine among ninety some publications.  Many people have asked me if I write the words, too, but I’m not a poet!  I’m really inspired by the poem, usually!

BD:    You’ve written so much for the voice.  Have you written any operas?

ERW:    No, I haven’t, and there are several reasons.  In the first place, it’s very hard to find the libretto that one really wants to set.  I have had numerous ones sent me, and they just didn’t appeal to me.  I haven’t really made a great research to find something because I was so much more interested in writing for orchestra and for the voice or for choral groups.  I have written more choral things than anything, I think.  Also I think it’s harder to get your works done if they involve so many people.  In an opera there are the singers, the staging, the orchestra, so much that it’s very difficult.  Composers have a difficult time getting their things heard, and it’s tripled by being a woman.  And they can be terribly expensive.

BD:    Do you feel that opera is a dying art?

ERW:    Oh, no, no!  I just personally haven’t loved to write for operas so much.  I suppose if I’d found a libretto that really appealed strongly to me, I would have.  You don’t just write to have things done and produced.

BD:    For whom do you write?


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ERW:    I write because I want to write.  I just feel like composing, and I compose.  When I’m asked to write for this group or that group, or this person or that person, then I’m looking for something along that line.  My Abram in Egypt was brought to me by a very, very prominent businessman, Louis Sudler, who was also a fine musician in Chicago.  [Sudler sang the first performance (as a solo cantata) conducted by Thor Johnson.  The first performance in its form with chorus was June 7, 1961 at the Los Angeles International Music Festival, with soloist Donald Gramm.  (See my Interview with Donald Gramm.)]  Sudler commissioned me to write a work, and I looked into it, and I took it from the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This was after a new set of scrolls had been discovered, and they were fascinating.  This was a fascinating work of literature, and so I said yes, I’d like to do it!  But I really wanted to have a chorus in it, too, because it was such a big thing.  So I did write it, and I combined it with the same story that’s in the Book of Genesis in the Bible.  The two together made it complete because each part was rather incomplete in itself.  The one in the Scrolls is much more poetical than the one in the Book of Genesis, but the one in Genesis completed it.  So I put them together, which was a very interesting experience.  I enjoyed doing that.  These scrolls were found at the Dead Sea, and I always thought it would be wonderful to have this work given there.  It would be such a thrill, and it actually came about!  My husband and I went to Europe that summer, and on to Israel for the performance, and it was really the most exciting experience, musically, that I had because it was so connected with history and with good people.  It was given both in Tel Aviv and at the Caesarea in the ancient Roman Coliseum.  I was thrilled because it was given there where these ancient Scrolls were found.  There’s a museum in Jerusalem to house these Scrolls.  They have a beautiful building and are presented magnificently
not just the part I set, but the whole set of Scrolls.  It was a thrill and it was a great success, I must admit.  It has an operatic feeling!  The people couldn’t understand how I had happened to write this piece because I don’t happen to be Jewish.  But it was a wonderful opportunity, and a very exciting adventure for me to write music for these wonderful words.  It was something different from what I had done.

BD:    Is the text is sung in the original or in English?

ERW:    It’s in English.  It was translated from the ancient Aramaic to Hebrew, and then the part I set was translated from Hebrew into English, and it was given in English. 

BD:    Was the [CRI LP] recording was made around the same time?

ERW:    It was made about six months later by Roger Wagner in London.   He has a chorus there that he uses for that sort of thing, and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

BD:    So this recording is a documentation of the performance in Israel?

warren ERW:    No, it wasn’t made in Israel.  It wasn’t with the same group entirely either, but it was under Roger Wagner, who did it in Israel.  But I had nothing to do with the recording.

BD:    On the other side of the record is the Suite for Orchestra.  How did that work came about?

ERW:    We have a ranch in the High Sierras, and we look across the lovely vista [shown at right?].  It’s not a long journey from my home, but when you get there you think you’re a hundred miles from any place because you look out across the desert to the beginning of the High Sierras.  I don’t know what it is called, but we have such wonderful cloud patterns there.  I love the ranch, and we’ve spent a great deal of our lives there and rode a great deal, and have been right out in this wilderness where I would see all these wonderful clouds.  I just felt the music, and I have to express my emotions in music that way.  So that is what the Suite is all about.  I did find some poetry by John Gould Fletcher (1886-1950; Pulitzer Prize, 1939).  I just happened to come across him, and I took a few lines for the four movements of this Suite.  It is an expression of the way I feel at the ranch which inspired it.  The spaciousness has had a lot of influence on my music. 
I felt a great spiritual closeness to all of this at the ranch, and it’s been a source of lots of my music.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    In your opinion, what should the ultimate purpose of music?

ERW:    I’ve never really thought a lot about a purpose.  I think it makes life so much richer in the first place.  I can’t imagine a life without music because my life has been so involved in music, right from the earliest memories I have of hearing my father sing and my mother play the piano for him.  As a very little girl I would creep out of bed and sit on the stairs and listen to them make music in the evenings.  All my life music has been such an important part.  For one’s spiritual fulfillment it is terribly important... at least it is to me.  Now there are a lot of people who just don’t feel that way, but I do.  Music enfolds so many avenues of thought and of development in character, and I’ve just been glad to see it do that in my children, and now even in my grandchildren a little bit, though they haven’t had the opportunities and didn’t care to study as much about it as I did.  None of them are violently interested in music, [laughs] but they are beginning to be.

BD:    Where is music going today?

ERW:    This is an age of experimentation, though all people would say that about ‘new music’ at their time.  I remember Nadia Boulanger saying to me that all music seemed new at the beginning as it would evolve and develop.  But I think there is more experimentation now than there ever has been.  Sometimes it seems as if it’s just as a matter of creating a novelty.  But so often what seemed so strange and experimental then becomes very understandable if you hear it enough.  They tell the story that Tchaikovsky didn’t have any use for Brahms.  He didn’t like his music at all.  He thought Brahms wasn’t nearly the composer that Anton Rubinstein was.  You can’t tell where it’s going or where it’s gotten, but it’s certainly growing all the time, and going on as an expression of development.  We have to listen with open ears.  Some people have written things just to write something different and to be different.  I don’t think that will last, but so often that is a natural expression to strike new paths, and then it becomes very understandable later.

BD:    Are there perhaps too many divergent styles being tried today?

ERW:    This is the age of trying and experimenting, more than it has been in the past.  It’s a good thing if it’s done sincerely and it holds up and becomes really important.  The sincerity with which it’s done means everything if it isn’t just done just to write something to be different.  It all depends, but very often new and very different sounds develop, and then pretty soon they come a part of the musical stream.

warren BD:    Do you feel that music is art or entertainment?

ERW:    [Recalling my previous letter]  Oh, I knew you were going to ask that!  I’m not sure what you mean by entertainment. Do you mean it just as background music or something like that?

BD:    I’m really looking for a balance.  Where is the balance between the art and the entertainment?

ERW:    There’s often music that seems maybe to be just entertaining, and it becomes important later on if it lasts.  Only time can tell that.

BD:    You mentioned your children and your grandchildren are enjoying music, but not to the extent that you are.

ERW:    They said,
Mother, I’m never going to be a musician because you work much harder than the cleaning lady!  [Both laugh]  I work all the time because I love it.  I’m doing what I want to do.

BD:    Should the concert management try to get the audience for popular music into the concert hall?

ERW:    What do you mean by ‘popular music’?  Do you mean rock and roll?

BD:    Perhaps...

ERW:    I personally don’t love it, but I just need to say
Yes, it should be!  For instance, a long time ago the music of Gershwin was considered just jazz and entertaining, and now we realize it was a distinctly new invention, a new form that he did, and it’s become a classic.  His Porgy and Bess is an opera to be reckoned with, and very rightly so.  It’s a wonderful opera.  Sometimes what is considered to be entertainment becomes important, and other times things that are considered as important have died.  It’s only time that tells.  That being said, I personally don’t see how people can have background music going on and be thinking about other things.  It even disturbs me when driving in the car to hear good music because I want to pay too much attention to the music rather than my driving!  I have to turn it off.

BD:    You want to concentrate just on the music!

ERW:    Yes, I love it and I only turn on the classical music station.  It’s hard to say.  I think that what is entertaining has to be good to last, and what is good should hold our interest.  Recordings have done a lot to bring people into listening to good music.

BD:    You have seen this tremendous proliferation of recordings.  Is this a good thing to have so many?

ERW:    I don’t know if it can all be supported or not, but I think it has done a lot.  For instance, there are a lot of people that hardly knew the name of Mozart until that picture
Amadeus — came along, and that’s taken some of them into the concert halls.  He’s become a best seller among records, and that’s a good thing.  That’s only just a movie but...

BD:    Should we make a movie and call it Remick?

warren ERW:    No!  [Both have a huge laugh]  No thank you!  But I think records are good.  They certainly help performers.  I have a collection of records that have a lot of very famous old performers both on the piano and singers, and I don’t think their standards were as high as those today.  It’s been a growing thing all the time.

BD:    Technically?

ERW:    Not only technically.  Of course that’s training in itself, but I think the standards are higher.  It’s fabulous what they are doing now.  I think they’re marvelous.

BD:    If they’re getting better technically, are they getting better musically?

ERW:    Some of them are, yes, but not all of them.  You can’t say they are or they are not, but certainly the growth in the mainstream has been, yes.  It grows all the time.  I’m an optimist, you know.

BD:    Are you optimistic about the whole business of music?

ERW:    Well, not the business side of it, obviously.  But I certainly am about music and the growth of music and the support of it.  It’s been my life, and that of my family.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    When you’re getting a new idea for a composition, does it immediately spring to your mind full-blown, or do you have to work on it a bit?

ERW:    Usually something springs to me.  It may not be the beginning; it may be a main theme.  Something will come and then you get thinking about it.  It’s like making a tapestry.  It develops as you go along, and one path leads to another.  It’s so hard to describe.  It sort of fills spaces in a way.

BD:    Are you conscious of time in your pieces
— how long a piece will last, or how long you intend it to last?

ERW:    Oh, no.  I just have to do what seems to come to me.  I know that some of mine have been a little long
, but these are the bigger works.  They’re going to be to larger productions because it’s more expensive if you involve a chorus and an orchestra and solo singers.  But you have to write the way you feel.

BD:    Is that the advice you have for young composers
— to write the way you feel?

ERW:    That the most important thing.  You really have to feel it.  You can’t think you’re going to write a sonata and sit down and write in the sonata form unless you have an inkling of it and some feeling.  It’s very hard to analyze a thing like that, but you have to have a lot of feeling for it to have a successful composition.  You can’t just write this or that and have a success unless it attaches onto your heart and your mind and your whole being.

BD:    When you’re writing for chorus, do you specify the size of the chorus you’d like perform it?

ERW:    No.  There are some that really have to have a fairly large chorus to be effective, but it depends on the scope of work is that you’re writing, and what you’re setting.  Some can have just twelve people, you know, or even just a quartet!  It just depends what you’re setting, what the magnitude is.  But I don’t think there’s any use in saying you have to have a certain number of people.  Sometimes choruses are understaffed, and yes, sometimes there’s too many.  I know one conductor said to me that he conducted a concert of massed choirs where there were 300 in the chorus.  Of course that was 200 too many!  You cannot get the nuances and the control that way.  You can overdo it as you can in anything.  But these groups that come together serve their purpose because they’re leading to new avenues, and it’s a thrill for them to hear all the people sing.  But there are other things that would be of a small scope that would be impossible to have a huge chorus do effectively.

BD:    Do you have any expectations of the audience that comes to hear your music?

ERW:    Well, I hope they like it!  [Both have a huge laugh]  Audiences are generally much better than they used to be because they have expanded in their taste, and the more they hear, the more they’re going to develop and enjoy it.  I don’t mean just of my music, but music in general.  There are so many facets to consider, but I can’t sit down coldly and analyze them.  I have to go by my feelings so much.  I’ve never set a poem that I didn’t really love and really feel for.  I’ve never written anything that I didn’t really feel deeply, and feel things about it and devote my time and my life to it.  It’s obviously with me.

warren BD:    You say you began composing at aged 5.  That means you’ve been involved in music now for all of your life.

ERW:    Well, that was child stuff.  But even so, I had very musical parents and not parents that pushed me ever.  They were very supportive.

BD:    In over seventy-five years, what has been the most surprising or the most interesting thing that you feel has happened?

ERW:    [Laughs]  Oh, I haven’t been writing for seventy-five years, but I never really thought about that. 

BD:    Then in composing or in performing, has there been one thing that has stood out as being surprising, that you didn’t think would happen?

ERW:    I’d have to think about that.  I don’t know.  [Pauses a moment]  No, I don’t think so.  Sometimes when I’ve heard a very new, really experimental work I’ve been a little surprised, and then I’ve heard it again and it wasn’t so surprising.  Then finally it becomes just something that you love... well, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.  But it will grow on one if it is new and surprising and it’s good and it’s sincere.  Then it opens new avenues of listening and of understanding and creativity.

BD:    Do you feel that concert music works well on the television?

ERW:    Well, it isn’t the same, of course, as live performances.  Nothing can replace that.  However, it’s so wonderful to have this opportunity to hear fine music on television.  That’s a marvelous thing.  It enlarges the audiences by millions more than in a concert hall, and people enjoy it very much.  A lot of people who didn’t listen to good music have grown to love it through truly fine great performances that are given by orchestras and concerts on television.  That’s all I listen to on television... except a little news!  [Laughs]

BD:    Do you feel that you are part of a lineage of composers?

ERW:    I never thought about that!  I never really thought about where I stand.  [She laughs]  That’s something only time can tell. 

BD:    But I assume you expect your music will last?

ERW:    I hope so.  Every composer does, but that isn’t why you write.  You’re not writing for the sake that you’re hoping that it will last, hoping that you’ll have these successes.  You’re writing because it’s something you love to do, and you want to do it.  It is expressing your life.  Everybody has some way of expressing themselves, or should have, and they’re happier if they do.  For some it’s writing books, for some it’s being golfers or tennis players.  There are many, many ways of expressing what one wants to do in their life.  Mine is just in music, and I’ve love it.  I don’t think that is something you do and stop.  That’s part of life.

BD:    Yes, you don’t hear of too many retired composers!

ERW:    No, I don’t think you retire.  Why should you retire?  As long as you have the ideas and the ability and you enjoy it you should continue to do it.  I’ve been very, very fortunate to have had many very good performances.  Not only do you learn a lot by performances but it’s something that makes you want you do more.

BD:    What is next on the calendar for Elinor Remick Warren?

ERW:    Well, I guess more of the same I hope... but not the same, you know!  I hope it grows as I go on.  I’m just now finishing up another piece, and I’ve been consulted about these recordings.  That’s the newest thing I’ve done.  And I have ideas for future things.  I will always love writing for choruses.  That’s one of my favorite ensembles probably because I’ve had an opportunity to understand choral writing so much, and now hearing so such wonderful performances.  Being led into that avenue was a good idea.  I love writing mostly for chorus and orchestra, and of course the songs too.  Although I am a pianist and am used to it and have done lots of concerts, I’ve not written hardly anything for piano.


BD:    It’s been fascinating speaking with you.  I learned a great deal about you and about your music, and about your ideas. 

ERW:    Well, it’s awfully nice to talk with you, Mr. Duffie.  I’ve appreciated your interest very much, and your co-operation.  I hope I haven’t been too vague with my answers.

BD:    [Re-assuringly]  No, no, this has been just fine!

ERW:    I don’t think I’m terribly analytical.  I do try to analyze my work, and that’s why I’m a tinkerer because I do try to improve it.  I often put things away.  In fact, in nearly all my composing I will write spontaneously and be so excited, and then I’ll put it away and go back to it later.

BD:    We’re very fortunate that you’ve been able to commit all of this to paper, and then bring it to performance.

ERW:    I’ve been very fortunate in so many ways, and I am very, very grateful.  But you have to work all the time to be happy.  I really do think that, even though it sounds awfully Pollyannaish.  If you find what you want to do, you never finish.




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© 1987 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded on the telephone on February 28, 1987.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1990, 1995, and 2000.  Spoken quotations from this conversation were used aboard Eastern Airlines during their in-flight musical programming for two months beginning in November, 1988.  Spoken quotations were also used in Song of America, a Radio series produced by Miriam Lewin, Segment #9, "There is no Gender in Music" March 2012.  This transcription was made in 2016, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.