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Classical Notes

Give me one note at a time

Posted at 7:12 PM on February 12, 2007 by Alison Young

In the grand scheme of making music, it's truly astonishing to me that our appetite for new music is being quenched by a seemingly boundless supply of talent. A new generation of composers is providing fresh and exciting repertoire for the stages and concert halls of America; pieces that will hopefully become the war horses of tomorrow.

This weekend, the Minnesota Opera presented a world premiere of a truly American opera, a musical adaptation of the John Steinbeck classic The Grapes of Wrath. The riveting score sprung from the mind of the talented composer Ricky Ian Gordon. But one thing I've often wondered is how does a composer's masterful writing get from its life as a full score to the various individual parts on the orchestra desks, the conductor's score and the singers' parts?

That's a job for a music preparer; someone behind the scenes who takes one voice at a time from a complicated score and makes it legible for one musician at a time and Bill Holab is one of the best in the field. He stopped by the MPR studios on his way to the opening and we had a little chat about what he does.

Curiously, Bill told me that he has scored 14 new operas in the last four years, a genre he believes has the most fertile ground for new music. If so, I can't wait for more operas!