Tried To Express It
I first imagined that I would be a composer when I was about 16 years old.1 I was in — and I guess it was inspired by a poetry teacher who asked us to do a creative project. And I had some kind of an interesting inner hearing that happened, and I heard music and I ran up to my teacher’s desk and said I want to compose music for this poem. I don’t think I was able to do that at that point, because there was no way for me to write down what I was hearing, because I had been trained as a performer, I did not have any instruction on how to compose. But the impulse was very strong. And so I announced actually that I was going to be a composer.2 And in the next few years I heard a lot of music internally, and I would try to express it. But it took quite a long time to be able to do that. Eventually I kind of struggled along and hunted around on the piano, looking for the notes that I was hearing, and trying to write them down. Eventually I succeeded and wrote my first piece. I think it was about 1951 when I was — I think I was in college by that time. Yes, I was, at the University of Houston.
And from there, I began to — I kept on writing, and I had an instructor at the University of Houston, and he was trying to teach through modeling, and I was very resistant to that, because I didn’t want to sound like the models that were being presented. I think it was Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words.3 And so I would always take my assignment home and work on it and come back with something that was — that I had felt I wanted to express, until finally he gave in and let me do what I was hearing. So, that was my beginning.