I only ever write one piece in any one genre. There will only ever be one string quartet, one solo piano piece, one piece for orchestra, one opera, one (nondramatic) work for voices.

Each of these compositions is a perpetual work-in-progress. They will not be finished until, for whatever reason, I stop composing. Every time I am moved to do it, I add new passages to the works.

My music has no conventional structure. It has form, but still not in the conventional sense. The form comes about moment by moment, a series of passages each growing out of its neighbor. I don’t predetermine how long each passage lasts, nor the relationship between one passage and its neighbour. Does this lead to incoherent music? Not to my way of thinking. I surrender control of unity and so unity comes, on its own terms rather than as forced by me. The music coheres in that all of it has found its way to me.

I never know what musical style will come onto the page when I compose. I don’t even know if the music will be tonal or atonal, since I write both. I have learned to allow all authentic voices out, to not judge anything that wants to be articulated. I resist nothing, but listen to whether the music that comes belongs to the composition or not.

To compose is to follow the music. The process is like tracing the courses of a wondrous multicursal maze. Sometimes the most beautiful paths are dead ends and I have to retrace my steps. Or it’s like a river with floating objects flowing by and I collect just the things I need and I place them next to one another until everything feels like they are in the right place.

Ultimately music must be made with love. Even the most violent, the most savage, the most terrifying music must be made with love. This means respect and care for the music. If music hasn’t been made with love, you’ll hear it.

If some of this sounds like John Cage, then I joyfully declare that my philosophy has something in common with his. It didn’t influence the formation of mine, yet when I discovered how much I agreed with him, I became emboldened to embrace it. My music, on the other hand, sounds nothing like Cage’s, which just goes to show the sheer range and power of a philosophy that surrenders control. My titles and durations are indebted to Morton Feldman, whose precedence gave me the courage to write such lengthy works. Nonetheless the music doesn’t sound like Feldman, except when it does. Charles Ives has been a curious hero of mine rather than an influence, my love for the sound of his music outstripped by a fascination for how he composed in isolation for most of his life, with few performances until well after he stopped composing.

Even though I have now lived in Australia for 19 years, my formative American years continue to weigh on my music. That’s what ‘formative’ means, of course. Art, on a deep level, is always autobiographical. The more abstract the art work, the more autobiographical it is in that the art work then becomes all about the artist’s esthetic, which can only come from the life the artist has led. Because of the cumulative nature of my compositions, each piece continually gathers subject matter from my story. I didn’t start composing until after I started living in America, so my native Malaysia seems to not show up in my music, although as I develop more understanding of the role of memory in human life, this may well change. I have composed to a lesser or greater extent throughout the many subsequent phases in my life – as a college student getting my physics degree while simultaneously receiving composition lessons; as a molecular biologist working in an HIV laboratory; as a health lobbyist and AIDS activist; as a postgraduate student in musicology; as a record company executive. I have since reversed the emphasis, and have come to see myself as a composer first and foremost who also has a rich life as a music consultant, a personal development coach; and a chrematist.

Solo Piano contains only music for piano two-hands. String Quartet contains only music for two violins, viola and cello. As of late-2009 both String Quartet and Solo Piano are each about three hours long. Of all my pieces, I find myself drawn back most often to writing these two.

The piece for orchestra is called Orchestra with Solo Instruments. This work contains passages scored for symphony orchestra, string orchestra and ‘concertante’ for solo instruments.

Voices and Instruments contains passages scored for solo voice (both sung and spoken) with piano, ensemble or with orchestra; unaccompanied chorus; and chorus with ensemble or orchestra.

Piano and String Quintet also includes much music just for piano, violin and cello. The string quintet is of two violins, viola, cello and double bass.

Harp and Wind Quintet also has many passages for solo wind instrument and harp.

The opera is called Drama for Voices and Instruments. There is no overarching plot, but is a sequence of scenes.

Most of my works are only ever performed in excerpt form, due to their unusual length.

Please visit my blog where I post excerpts from String Quartet and Solo Piano and Harp and Wind Quintet. For those of you who have been listening to my music on Facebook, please note I have disabled the buggy Music Application and will be switching to the ReverbNation and iLike apps soon. Please bear with me during the transition and thank you!

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Cheryl Jorgensen October 6, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I heard some of your music last night, Lyle, in the Sandgate Town Hall (Brisbane) performed by the Acacia Ensemble, and I am gobsmacked,


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