by Christopher Fulkerson
CF's Composition Desk

Here are some of my influences. However, I must say that there really isn't any composer whose music I remain enthusiastic about from the beginning to the end of their careers, or at least without exceptions. I think it's part of what it means to be a composer. One of the main reasons I write is that no one else writes exactly what I want to hear. If I want to hear what I want to hear, I have to write it.

The photograph is of CF with Elliott Carter at Carter's New York home, February 2000


Elliott Carter
For the best synthesis of feeling, form and idiom in the Twentieth Century
For the best example of what it is to write what is important
For precompositional methods and techniques
For the ideal of unmatched invention
For ideas about pitch choices
For the example of a postwar musical persona, that avoids the populist “puppet show In a bomb shelter” or what has become a puppet show in a ghetto

Pierre Boulez
For the basic encounter with contemporary music
For the basic rules of modern harmony as derived from modern counterpoint
For his sublime stubbornness against second rate ideas
For the musicianship ideal
For the concept of what I call “conducting in self defense”
For the model of persevering until he made his music popular without compromises

Iannis Xenakis
For precompositional concepts
For communicating the urgency of the need for new ideas to keep the human spirit alive and supreme
For the reminder of the Greek part of the European heritage

Gyoergy Kurtag
For reviving motivic usage
For new ideas about sonority and symmetrical structures, including the use of octaves
For positing the "concerto for voice"

Ralph Shapey
For certain characteristics of the “rougher” aspect of the modern idiom, especially the extroverted character of modern harmony and melody
For what he called the “Graven Image,” that is, the idea of writing iconic musical ideas

Arnold Schoenberg
For free musical modernity to begin with
For proposing the first practical solutions to the problem of the crisis of reaching the audience

Nigel Osborne
For plasticity of vocal imagery
For the palpable, runic character of the inscribed page and the act of creation of what can be felt as “written and sonic runes:” in other words, for the sense of the work of the musical scribe


For the idea of being concerned that sections have the proper weight and that ideas should not quit before they are fully developed
For the heroic aspiration and the heroic sound
For the example of the courage to continue composing despite great difficulties

J.S. Bach and C.P.E. Bach
For the science of voice leading
For the most plausible pre-Modern model of the composer as a kind of scientist

For the model of the composer integrated with his society and yet leading it           
For the strength of character to say that he wanted to uplift people psychologically, and the wholesomeness of mind to know that such a thing is important, but through the example of doing so without straying from the path of the center and forefront of musical style

Richard Strauss
For the career ideal
For the vision of how to get my compositions to work for me

For the model of the mind being constantly at what I call "the event horizon" of the present moment
For the realization of the self as dramatic genius
For the model of the polymath genius, the “Master of All Trades”
For the model of the use of literature and ideas integrated into a mind and a compositional career
For articulating Wotan’s Dilemma, which is the situation of every creative artist with sufficient awareness

For the voluptuous sounds of voices and plectral instruments
For the sense of wisdom in limpid text setting
For opera to begin with

Updated August 7, 2012