Allan Crossman has written for many soloists and ensembles, among them guitarist Michael Laucke, Quatuor Morency, and pianist Max Lifchitz. The North/South Consonance (NYC) recording of Millennium Overture Dance received a GRAMMY nomination in 2003, and Music for Human Choir (SATB) shared Top Honors at the Waging Peace through Singing Festival. Pianist Nanette Solomon has performed Gypsy Ballads at the International Lorca Conference in Spain; North/South has just recorded his FLYER (cello and string orchestra), commemorating the centenary of powered flight; a recent commission is the piano trio Icarus, for the New Pacific Trio (San Francisco area). His work has been supported by the American Composers Forum, Canada Council for the Arts, Meet the Composer (SF/NY), and others.
He has composed, arranged, and directed music for theater, including The Threepenny Opera, The Comedy of Errors, and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (Stoppard/Previn). The most recent of his theatre scores, The Log of the Skipper’s Wife, directed and with libretto by Joann Green Breuer, was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford and the Kennedy Center, with music drawn from Irish/English shanties and dances. His music is the soundtrack for the award-winning animated short, X man, by Christopher Hinton (National Film Board of Canada).
OPUS DISSONUS - What was your first contact with the art of composing? What motivated you to start?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - I played piano from a very early age; then at around 13, I had my own ideas and began writing. My first pieces reflected the music I enjoyed the most: the Grieg and Liszt Piano Concertos, other classical favorites. The motivation was both my love of the repertoire and to record my many emerging ideas. I particularly enjoyed harmony – just playing through successions of chords and finding ways to connect them through mostly stepwise voice-leading. I still do this today.
OPUS DISSONUS - How does your compositional process works?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - The process has become quite distinct over the years:
• “brain-storming” – taking plenty of time to sketch and record any number of ideas;
• finding connections among them, motivically, harmonically, etc.;
• discovering a progression of ideas;
• an overall form/direction emerges;
• filling in and refining that form, combining ideas and putting in final transitions;
• confirming/adding tempi, phrasing, articulation, etc.
OPUS DISSONUS- Which ones of your works may, in your own view, be regarded as "introductory" or "obligatory" for those who want to know more about your compositions?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - I’d suggest a listener sample FLYER, ICARUS, COASTAL GHOST, LOG OF THE SKIPPER’S WIFE.
OPUS DISSONUS - How would you describe your own style of composing?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - My different types of compositions are all: harmonic, lyrical, and with an interest in expressive voice-leading.
OPUS DISSONUS - Who are the composers who have had the greatest influence on your work, from the earliest compositions to the present?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - From early on, it was the composers at the center of the classical repertoire, and Gershwin. Later were added Mahler, Bartok, Ligeti. others. Usually, influences have not been identified until after their impact.
OPUS DISSONUS - You mention on your CV you had classes with Rochberg, Weisgall e Crumb, How was your contact with these people?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - Yes. Their ideas about compositional practice were quite helpful and sometimes inspiring. Each of them was personally evolving as artists, and so we students witnessed their ways of solving pivotal problems. Of course, their music itself was always the most instructive and memorable.
I was there in the 60s when Rochberg was changing from serial to tonal writing, which was an astounding period, and has had lifelong influence on me. Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children and Makrokosmos were remarkable in their effect on style and probing connection with instruments. Weisgall was one of those who could merge the
concert and theater stages. All of their work has offered possibilities for keeping a more open compositional style.
OPUS DISSONUS - You have directed music for theater frequently, how did this interest start?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - I grew up hearing Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers, so there was an early enjoyment of Broadway song. I began music-directing Weill and other shows in the 70s, and in the 80s wrote my first musical revue, The Border. Writing musicals will be ongoing...
OPUS DISSONUS - It seems you have a huge interest in abstract art. You made the music for Christopher Hinton's short film "X-Man", and also told me in the past about your inspiration based on the paintings by Jackson Pollock for another work of yours. Tell me about how your interest in the visual arts started?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - I’m very visual and always carry around mental images. Occasionally, one of them sparks something musical. Pollock’s fluid technique of painting came to me while improvising at the piano: I was gradually playing less deeply into the keys until quickly skimming across the surface. The sensations and acoustic results were rich enough for me to consider doing at least a movement of a solo piece based on that quality. It’s now part of a new work for Artur Cimirro.
OPUS DISSONUS - What are your impressions of the youngest generation of composers? Do you know them?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - My impression is quite a positive one! I’ve heard many concerts of young composers from around the world, and have had composition students from age 9 on up. I’m very taken with their imaginations and interest in using whatever fascinates them – many of them like mixing styles, which I find enjoyable to hear. From what I gather, those directions we call “styles” – classical and otherwise – are viewed unself-consciously as potential material for composing. And there is no hesitation about writing diatonic music in the 21st century.
OPUS DISSONUS - What are your impressions of the current incentive given to classical music in the U.S.A, Canada and other countries that your have had contact with?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - I have lived in both the US and Canada and each year there’s less government subsidy to artists of all kinds. Composers have to find alternatives, such as grants and performance opportunities from organizations like AMC, SCI, ACF, others; performers themselves calling for commissions; competitions; internet/self-publishing/self-recording. Many performers and ensembles are more and more receptive to playing new music, and I find this all over the map. Their interest in collaborating with composers is remarkable, and their technical capacity appears to be limitless! So incentives are there across the artistic community, but it certainly takes time and effort to find them and follow through. I’ve heard for many years that for every hour of writing, it takes two hours of promotion to keep getting your music out. I’d be interested in knowing how it works in Europe and Asia these days. I don’t know if contemporary-music audiences have increased in numbers over the last few decades, and that interests me too.
OPUS DISSONUS - In your opinion, what can we expect for the future of classical music?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - Taken globally, it’s as vibrant as it’s ever been, given the breadth of practice and style.
Composers’ imaginations are not only for their pieces but also for finding new ways to present them.
OPUS DISSONUS - What words would you say to an aspiring composer?
ALLAN CROSSMAN - Keep writing every day, on a regular schedule if possible. And go out of your way to hear your music played by the best performers you can find – if it’s not via concerts then organize a reading, and be willing to pay the players for their time. The right players are as valuable as the best composition teachers. Hear plenty of music, remember precisely what it is you enjoy hearing the most – and try to figure out why.