There wasn’t much music in my childhood home. And so, when I had that experience of discovering that Shostakovich wrote his first symphony when he was 19 and became world famous overnight, I didn’t have anything to compare it to, and so to my mind there was only one composer in the world worth listening to, who was still working and still alive, and that was Shostakovich. And so, I began my career at the age of nine becoming a Shostakovichaphile. And so, I got all of his records and I started learning Russian when I was in Junior high school, and I eventually ended up studying in Russia. I just became completely obsessed, because it’s not just that I saw a composer and I discovered composing existed, and I thought that was really cool. But I discovered that composer, and so the existence of Shostakovich really was like an incredibly powerful thing for me.
And I didn’t have anything to compare it to, so, I started thinking composers are alive, composers are making things right now. Here’s this composer, Shostakovich, and who is like him, you know? So, I started listening to other Russian composers, I started listening to composers who were still alive, I started thinking that I’m completely interested in anything that’s being made right now. And for me, the really difficult thing from that was the stretch of how to get used to the idea that composers had been working for hundreds of years and most of them were dead.
So, it’s different from the way people normally learn music, which is that they normally learn how to play piano.1 And they start playing piano with easy pieces of Beethoven and Bach and Mozart, and so they get this message that there were geniuses who walked the earth 300 years ago.2 And now we’re going to gradually see if we can bring music history up closer and closer to the present day. For me, what I thought was music is happening right now, and I’m much more interested in that than the idea that somebody made something 200 years ago that might be interesting.