Burning QuestionsMusic of Richard Cameron-Wolfe

From the liner notes:

Composing doesn’t come easily for me. I’ve always admired Haydn for his prolificity. Imagine: month after month, issuing forth uniquely imaginative works – ah, the flow of it! On the contrary, replacing that water metaphor with its opposite, it seems that each of my forays into the realm of composition has been an “ordeal by fire”.

Always exasperated by the inevitable question, “Why do you compose?”, I eventually settled on the following reply: “There becomes something that I need to hear. If someone else would compose it, I wouldn’t have to go through this.” If I’m being truthful in asserting this, then I conclude that what I need to hear is either the answer to a question or the consequence of tossing that question onto the fire – maybe replacing it with a better one, as Ramana Maharshi taught.

In 1972, with little previous experience, I petitioned to be accepted into the Indiana University Master’s degree program in composition. Part of the entrance requirement was as follows: on a Friday afternoon one is given an envelope containing an instrument-specific “commission”, the work to be completed and delivered by Monday noon. Mine turned out to be trumpet, viola, and harp – a combination not having any historical precedent (and perhaps for good reason!). My first thought for an appropriate title was “Fresh-Squeezed”, but my concerned, coffee-supplying friends persuaded me to opt for something less facetious. Completed in the time allotted, it entered the world as “Phoenix-Flight”.

I’ll leave it to the listener to conclude whether any of these seven works, produced over a period of 40 years, is worthy of having “risen from the ashes”.