Chou Wen-chung

Excerpts from “Sights and Sounds: Remembrances”

Published in Minds for History, the Minds for History Institute, Arcosanti, Arizona, October 1990.

He [Varèse] taught me to be the severest critic of my own music. He taught me musical integrity and responsibility. He demanded persistence in hearing every detail while composing, and insisted on commitment to being an independent thinker. Whenever he criticized me, he would look at me sternly and say: “Don’t say ‘yes’ to me out of politeness. You wrote it; you are responsible. Now, fight back… Tell me…”

The lesson I learned was that shallowness does not lead to solutions. One must search beyond the procedures of a musical practice, discern its original esthetic commitments, and trace how its tradition has evolved. If one is blessed with a cross-cultural heritage, one must then regard it as a privilege and obligation to commit the search in both practices.

I believe I have followed the wenren tradition; I believe I have followed the tradition that Varèse embodies. Both would require me to think of the future out of the roots of the past. Both would require me to be scrupulously independent as an artist.