Musical Interlude

A Conversation with Music Professor David Glaser

Professor and composer David Glaser has been sharing his passion for music with Yeshiva University students since 1996. His most recent work, Of Twilight, is a five-section piece scored for soprano, violin, bass-clarinet, percussion and piano. Inspired by texts from Charles Simic’s Dimestore Alchemy, a series of evocative poems about artist Joseph Cornell’s life and works, the piece will be performed at the New York New Music Ensemble’s opening concert on November 28. Below, Glaser reflects on his career as associate professor of music at Stern College for Women and his love of sound.

David Glaser
David Glaser

Can you talk a little bit about what it’s been like to teach music at Stern College?

Teaching music at Stern is very gratifying. Although most of my students will not be pursuing careers in music, they are as eager and curious as anyone who is planning on becoming a professional musician. The advantage of small classes means that I can give a lot of attention to our students, and I get to know most of them pretty well by the time they graduate. In my larger class, Sense of Music, the most rewarding thing is leading a nonmusician to that “Aha!” moment, when an abstract concept suddenly becomes audible. Our Sense of Music course is not taught as a survey, but rather as a class in developing listening skills. Although it is more difficult for both the students and me, I feel that in the end it is far more rewarding than a course that focuses on names and dates.

Where did your passion for music come from? How does it inform your teaching and your work?

I was always interested in music, and some of my earliest memories are of sitting directly in front of the speakers of our stereo listening to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. I played French horn in junior high and some classical guitar after that but was always too lazy to practice. Oddly enough, it was a piece of music that I found confusing and unpleasant that led me to become a composer. Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire was a piece that I’d read was one of the seminal works of the early 20th century so I thought I’d give it a listen. I hated it, but at the same time, because it was so strange to me, I decided to listen again. Eventually it showed me that there was an entire sonic universe that I was unaware of and excited by. It is now one of the pieces that I couldn’t live without.

Are there any upcoming concerts with YU students?

There will be a concert on Monday, December 19, featuring our choral and chamber ensembles with a bit of support from me and Professor Marcia Young. It’s a student concert, prepared under the incredibly capable direction of Professor Young, and will feature pieces that highlight the skills of our student performers.

What is the most important lesson you would like your students to come away from your classes with?

Stay curious and try to keep an open mind. Realize that art, whether it is music, painting or a poem, is the result of hard work and plenty of revision, not inspiration. And please, don’t ever go to a see a movie about a composer or artist.

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