The young Canadian dared to espouse the notion that music is emotion, that it is a medium in which to express feelings. "Immediately I got punced on", Mozetich recalls. "I defended myself but not in a very intellectual way." Back in Canada, he realised that he had lost his taste for modernism, the very music that had inspired him to become a composer, as a teenager back in Hamilton. That world had become sterile: composers, Mozetich realized, were supposed to "create a hypothesis and realise it musically, like a research paper.
I thought this was ridiculous". But there were a few composers whose music he felt drawn to: notably Terry Riley, and the New York minimalism of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. What Mozetich absorbed of that style into his own music was not the "phase-shifting" that was minimalism's main feature, but rather its simple, direct harmonies, userd in a non-narrative way, and the almost hypnotic effect of its repetitive patterns. "I never went totally minimal", Mozetich insists. "I never set the material and then set it in motion and let it spin itself out. I had to put my two cents' worth in! And then I found the less repetition I used, the more Romantic the music sounded." One of the first pieces to demonstrate this new approach was "Dance of the Blind" written in 1980.
Mozetich's sudden U-turn stunned his colleagues in the compositional community, but audiences loved it. Mozetich got an even greater response at the 1992 Banff String Quartet Competition. He wrote the imposed work for the competition: Lament in the Trampled Garden. Many in the audience were moved to tears.
Mozetich was pleased, but not surprised by this reaction. Much has changed in the musical world over the past two decades. Mozetich no longer feels like an isolated traveller in the world of tonality. But it's still a difficult road. There are those who hear in his music only the simple harmonies and repeated patterns, and assume that the compositional craft required is somehow unseemly. Mozetich is not disturbed by this, or not much anyway.
Though it would be nice to be universally loved, he's not especially interested in writing music to satisfy critics. Rather, he says, his aim is to write music that expresses beauty, sensuousness, emotion - things that give him pleasure. It's not compromise, he insists, because in doing so, he's only being truer to himself. And it's that truth that audiences connect with.
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