Meet IVY Member Daniel Beliavsky: concert pianist, composer, music theorist, filmmaker, and educator. Since his first professional performance at fifteen, Daniel has performed as a soloist with orchestras and in recitals around the world, and his original compositions have been featured in this country’s most esteemed venues. In 2011, Daniel produced a film documentary about the distinguished American composer Donald Harris, and is currently working on a film about Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Del Tredici, whose works famously celebrate being gay, and the “tormented relationships, personal transformations, and the joys and sorrows of gay life.” Read Daniel’s story, and connect with him on IVY!
Tell me about your interest in David Del Tredici. What does it mean to write “gay music?” Does sexuality impact the creative process?
Working with and learning from living composers has fascinated me since I met and began performing the music of Lukas Foss, who famously said that “tradition is the last bad performance.”
As I have come to realize through working on my film about David Del Tredici, sexuality is to such an extent a universal (or near-universal) condition that to consider it apart from the creative process is a disservice to an artist’s motivations. I don’t mean that sexuality is always overtly apparent or lustful in nature in an artist’s works, but it is largely intertwined with the emotions that artists have sought to communicate through art over many centuries. So while music may be charged with sexual urgency manifested through rhythm, verse, and context, I don’t believe that music can be gay (or, for that matter, straight or otherwise sexually nuanced) in any consistent or plainly recognizable way. Still, when a great composer such as Del Tredici maintains that his music contributes to the canon of gay culture, this claim should not be ignored. In fact, my investigation of whether it is meaningful to label his music as gay has strengthened my need to ask much broader questions about music’s role in all facets of society. I began making this film because I love David’s music. Now, several years later, I’m beginning to understand why his music is so polarizing, catalyzing so many intense reactions among its listeners. Like sexuality, and because of it, Del Tredici’s music is deeply personal and, in its many variations, universally valid.
What are the three pieces of music everyone should listen to, and why? What are the pieces that you think have had the biggest cultural significance in the last 500 years?
I can’t recommend any finite set of pieces that everyone should know because cultural preferences change according to place and time, and because I am not an authority on mass taste. In fact, I know a limited repertoire of works relative to the world’s immense and continuously growing music library. So any recommendations I make will betray the biases shaped by my background and experiences as a classically trained musician.
Beyond music by David Del Tredici and Donald Harris, whose Sonata (1957) for piano inspired my first film, and beyond certain now standard works by, say, Beethoven (the 3rd, 5th, and 9th symphonies, for starters), I can list several pieces that made a startling impact on me because of their intricacy and awesome beauty. I teach music history, and the following pieces–enduring favorites for my students and for me–powerfully reflect their composers’ place in time as well as intellectual, spiritual, and emotional reasoning.
1. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Awake, A Voice is Calling”), BWV 140 by J.S. Bach.
2. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (“I am Lost to the World”), from the Rückert-Lieder by Gustav Mahle.
3. The Impromptus, Opp. 90 and 142, for piano, by Franz Schubert. Among my favorites are Op. 142, No. 2 and Op. 90, No. 3.
What’s your most audacious life goal?
Among my goals as a musician, filmmaker, and educator is to produce quality work that not only allows me to develop continuously as an artist, but equally, if not more importantly, inspires and helps others.
How can IVY members help support you?
I would be grateful for any and all support, especially from anyone who could recommend and connect me to grant-awarding agencies that would be interested in my film work on living composers and lecture-recitals on various topics in music. Also, I would be thrilled to connect with presenters and artist managers who specialize in multi-media platforms, and with artists, musicians, and filmmakers who are interested in collaborative endeavors.
Daniel Beliavsky is an IVY Member (NYC). Connect and collaborate with him on IVY, learn more about his films here, and check out his YouTube channel here. To learn more about IVY, please visit www.ivy.com.