Morten Lauridsen - Gaining skills as a composer

Jonah Rosenthal: If you could say a bit about how you learned to write for all the other instruments that you might not have actually formally studied.

Morten Lauridsen: That's a very good question, especially for young composers. I certainly recommend to young composers that you have a piano background. It will help you every single day of your adult professional career. But I also had the opportunity to play on in ensembles, which I think is another thing that's important for composers, to understand how ensembles work from our participants viewpoint.

Jonah: So this would be ensembles of relatively small groups?

Morten: No, either large or small groups, but to be a member of a performing group. And I sang in the church choir. And I continued to sing in college, in the college choir which gave me a great education as to what goes on compositionally on the interior of those ensembles. But also once you start composition, you start to...you must have a knowledge of orchestration and there will be classes for that. But a great deal of that also can be self taught initially and there are plenty of books on the market where young composers can go out. I'm on the faculty that admits students to USC and so many of those students said, “No we didn't have a orchestration class in the grade school and high school. I simply went out and studied on my own.”. And that's a very important thing. Another thing I might say for young composers especially is befriend people who are very very good on their instruments in the right pieces for them.

Jonah: Alright. They can like really give you feedback.

Morten: Absolutely. Even though I was a good trumpet player one of my first extended composition was a sonata for trumpet & piano. And I thought that I would write it so that I could play it. But it got away from me in terms of technical reasons. And I found a student at USC that was so good, and I wrote it for him and he premiered it and he’s just recently retired from the Canadian brass. So, good to know players and work with them, and they will help you learn orchestration.

Team Compassmorten