Paul Moravec Finds Inspiration in the Stones of Rome

Paul Moravec Finds Inspiration in the Stones of Rome

Paul Moravec, FAAR’85, is the current Paul Fromm Composer in Residence, a prolific composer and University Professor of Music at Adelphi University.  He received the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2004 for Tempest Fantasy, a Shakespearean-inspired chamber work scored for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano.  

How did you come to teach at Adelphi University and what is your favorite aspect of teaching there?
Adelphi hired me sixteen years ago and in 2004 promoted me to University Professor, which is a great honor. It is a terrific small university and I love teaching there.

Have you had any useful exchanges or encounters with the other residents during your stay?
Everybody has been great and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out! I'll mention something memorable and very useful that Glenn Murcutt said to me the other day over dinner: A work of art is not created, but discovered. I should say I was delighted to meet Seamus Heaney and Stephen Greenblatt as I am such a fan of their work. And the current crop of Fellows is a very congenial group.

What was your experience like as a Fellow in 1984-85 and do you find the Academy has changed since then?
It was up until that point the greatest year of my life. It opened up for me whole worlds of creative possibilities. In practical terms, it was in my Fellowship year that I was allowed the time and space to develop the compositional work habits that have served me well ever since. Yet coming back is perhaps more gratifying because I’m more experienced, more knowledgeable and generally more appreciative. Also, my wife Wendy is here with me! The Academy is an astounding place. I’ll never get over it. Back then the Academy was, to put it delicately, facing physical challenges.  The renovations since have been spectacular. I kind of miss the tennis court out back, but now the gardens look much better!

Have you been back many times to Rome since then and has it changed? What are your general thoughts about the city?
I’ve been back at least five times between my Fellowship and Residency. With the exception of things like improved traffic flow or the new Santa Cecilia concert halls, I can’t say that I've noticed much change in Rome itself.   I feel that I've changed more than Rome has. I appreciate Rome more and more. Each visit has been a richer experience than the others. Rome continues to astonish me and it probably always will.

How does the Eternal City inspire your work?
A place that makes me so happy is bound to be inspiring. How could it be otherwise? This happiness for me involves aesthetic appreciation: no matter where you look there is always something to admire. Anywhere.  Even just standing at  an ordinary street intersection,  I love to observe the bizarre juxtapositions of the buildings, the epochs and the play of unusual geometry. The palimpsest of Rome is continually inspiring me as a composer. Like the medieval builders who regarded Rome as a quarry and made their buildings out of recycled ancient materials, I think of the city as an inexhaustible quarry of time and memory. The medium of music is time and memory is the mediator. Rome is full of both time and cultural memory and these, unlike the stones of the Forum, are renewable, sustainable resources.

Do you have a favorite place to do your work at the Academy?
As a Resident I am working in the Bass Garden Studio, which is actually situated in the Aurelian Wall. So I am literally working within the stones of that time quarry.


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