Should we write about the issues of the day or about eternal values?

This is a question that I have pondered since I started composing. One wants to add one’s voice to the chorus looking to identify and resolve the pressing issues of the day and yet, one wonders if talking, or writing music, in this case, about them is the best way to go. Maybe the problems will resolve if one focuses, instead, in the values that are needed to solve them. If you have a corrupt official, do you write about him or do you write a work about the values of honesty and integrity and emphasize that? I have tended, so far to write about the problems themselves and the factors involved. In fact, I just did a piece about immigrants, telling the stories of 25 immigrants I interviewed as part of my McKnight Visiting Composer residency. The piece is not judgemental and it portrays the immigrants in a sympathetic light. So it is not really a negative piece, it’s a narrative piece, of which I am looking to do more. However, with all the negativity that we have seen the last few years, I think we should emphasize now the positive values that we have to aspire to. It appears to me that too many people are pointing out what’s wrong and not enough people are looking for what’s right. And there are a lot of things right, but to see them, we have to start to emphasize them. I will start working on that as I continue working on my Immigrants project. If you disagree with me about the need to bring out the good, go and see one of the latest films about Mr. Rogers. He knew how to do positive right.

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