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Composer Andrew Rudin Balances Melodies and Modernism

Andrew Rudin

One of the hottest new Philadelphia composers is hardly new. Andrew Rudin is well into his 70s, and was a fixture for decades teaching at the University of the Arts. He recently had an instant hit with his piano trio Circadia, and now talks to the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns about his post-retirement creative renaissance.

David Patrick Stearns: Sometimes you sense something special in the wind. Through his long association with Orchestra 2001, composer Andrew Rudin has had his share of premieres, but the kind of distillation demanded by chamber music yielded something particularly special in Circadia, a piano trio that he wrote for the organization, 1807 & Friends.

Andrew Rudin: If somebody had told me when I was 50 that my most successful period would be in my 70s I would've thought they were dreaming. When I was just a kid starting out and I sort of looked at the fact that Stravinsky wrote those great ballets in his late 20s and early 30s, well I passed that milestone and that didn't happen. And finally, what I learned at this point is: Don't go by anybody else's playbook.??

DPS: The Texas-born, Penn-educated Rudin made his name on electronic music that often had him working without a score and just feeling his way into abstract sound. Much of it still holds up. But at heart, Rudin identifies with the now-unfashionable 12-tone modernist method of composition. He proves that it can do all the things that other composers say that it can't, such as having melody or expressing intense, subtle emotions. 

DPS: But only in 2006 did Rudin have such moments of truth - after a long lull when he composed little. 

AR: I know it sounds like an incredibly naive thing to say, but I just wonder what happened to melody. All the composers that I admire, they all knew how to write melodies and they do it. I'm tired of hearing these pieces that just push around interesting special effects and textures.

DPS: With such priorities, is it any surprise that he is starting work on an opera based on the Andre Gide novella Pastoral Symphony? How will anything pastoral and atonal fit together? With his Scandanavian stubbornness, Rudin won't stop until he finds out.