A Word with David Toub, Postminimalist Extraordinaire

Postminimalist composer, David Toub, took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us a little about his start up in to composition and what we can look forward to from him in the future.  I think people generally look over the detail, “when did you start composing and what triggered it.” I would suspect that is because a good number of composers are straight out of a college of the arts and it streamed from childhood.  Directed.  I personally find it more interesting when someone has “a calling” without any direction.  The individual working/studying, etc., to succeed in a competitive society, yet pulled into the arts, towed in by a force, that being a creative outlet in the mind, a predefined set course maybe or simply a natural talent discovered and utilized to its fullest.  Be sure to visit the links and check out his works. 


Combs:  How old were you when you started composing?

 Toub:  I can’t remember the age, but I know I started writing something by the seventh grade. It was pretty bad, and I knew nothing about theory, not even how to write proper notes (backward noteheads, etc.).  I got more involved during ninth grade.

Combs:  What attracted you to minimalism? 

Toub:  Initially, I had zero interest.  I had heard some early Reich (Come Out, Four Organs, Drumming, etc.) and thought it was weird and unlistenable.  I was writing freetonal and 12-tone music at the time. However, I remained intrigued.  In 12th grade (1978-1979), I heard the radio premiere of Einstein on the Beach and was hooked.  But it was about two years before I actually wrote a postminimalist piece. I wanted to make sure I was writing in my own voice rather than plagiarizing.

Combs:  You practiced medicine for many years. How in the hell did you compose hour long works while attending medical school?

 Toub:  That was tricky.  I made the time during off-hours.  I also would copy my scores by hand during down time between surgical cases as a fellow.  The biggest challenge was finding a piano.  I made use of a lot of practice rooms under less than optimal circumstances.  In the early 90’s, my wife got me a synthesizer that I still use, and that was invaluable.

Combs:  Who is your favorite composer?

Toub:  Too many to count, but certainly Feldman, Scelsi, Riley, Shostakovich and Reich are up there.

Combs:  What project is on deck for David Toub?

Toub:  I am currently almost done digitizing my first postminimal work from 1981. It’s around 2 hours for piano. The percussionist Bill Solomon has asked me for a piece, and I will write it eventually.  I just took a great position with a medical device startup in Silicon Valley, so I spend a lot of time flying to work from Pennsylvania.  But I have a MIDI keyboard controller in my office in California, so I’m managing to get something done after the workday.


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