Composer / Pianist Elinor
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
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.
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. . . . . . . . .
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 me — having 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.
things getting better for the woman composer?
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?
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?
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
BD: Where is
the balance between inspiration and technique?
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
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?
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
BD: Have you
ever come upon a deadline and felt that the music wasn’t ready yet?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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
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
performers ever find things in your scores that you didn’t know where
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?
surprised at the performances sometimes, but not with the music.
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?
Tibbett, Richard Crooks, Florence Easton, Bidu Sayão, Rose
Bampton... lots of people. [See 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.
accompanist of your own works, are you the ideal interpreter of your
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
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.
with the songs for a moment, do you ever write your own text?
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!
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
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?
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
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?
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?
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
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
BD: Do you feel
that music is art or entertainment?
[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?
I’m really looking for a balance. Where is the balance between
the art and the entertainment?
often music that seems maybe to be just entertaining, and it becomes
important later on if it lasts. Only time can tell that.
mentioned your children and your grandchildren are enjoying music, but
not to the extent that you are.
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.
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?
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?
[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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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
BD: Is that
the advice you have for young composers — to write the way
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.
When you’re writing for chorus, do you specify the size of the chorus
you’d like perform it?
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
people, you know, or even just a quartet! It just depends what
setting, what the magnitude is. But I don’t think there’s any use
saying you have to have a certain number of people. Sometimes
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
cannot get the nuances and the control that way. You can overdo
you can in anything. But these groups that come together serve
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.
Do you have any expectations of the audience that comes to hear your
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.
BD: You say you
began composing at aged 5. That means you’ve been involved in
music now for all of your life.
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?
[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
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
very fortunate that you’ve been able to commit all of this to paper,
and then bring it to performance.
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.
© 1987 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded on the telephone on February 28,
1987. Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1990, 1995, and
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
Music" March 2012. This transcription was made in 2016, and
posted on this
at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una
Barry for her help in preparing this website
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been
transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975
its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His
interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since
and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well
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
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.