Goldstaub, an award-winning composer who joined the Music Department’s faculty in 1998, sees numerous similarities between his work and that of the scientists whose labs are in the building next door.
“Although we all hope for the lightning bolt of inspiration, whether you are a scientist or an explorer or an artist, there is a lot of what I call pre-compositional thinking and research going on,” he said. “A scientist might spend years studying the available literature, doing sample experiments, designing problems that lead up to the big question. He might spend weeks, months or years walking around the outside of the problem, deciding first of all: What is the question? That is a process similar to what I go through. Before writing a note comes years of general research on the topic.”
Take Goldstaub’s major project in 2008, for example. He spent much of the year composing a 25-minute piece inspired by a group of poems he first read three years earlier.
The poems, a series of Spanish folk lyrics translated into Russian by K.D. Balmont about a century ago, were translated into English by Martin Bidney, a professor emeritus of English at Binghamton. When Bidney first shared them with Goldstaub in 2005, there were more than 350 short poems addressing a variety of themes.
By May 2008, Goldstaub had committed to writing a piece inspired by this poetry in time for a premiere at the 2009 edition of Musica Nova, the annual concert of new music that he directs each February.
“I’m very fortunate in that almost everything I write gets performed,” said Goldstaub, whose work has been played at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and as far away as Japan. “Sometimes I’m writing for a specific occasion or situation and that in some ways helps me decide the style. Here at Binghamton with the Musica Nova concerts, it’s an atmosphere that seems to invite experimentation. People have trusted me to make interesting concerts and I’m delighted to say, ‘We’re going on a musical journey. Come along.’”
Harold Reynolds, a trombonist and professor at Ithaca College, has worked with Goldstaub for more than 20 years. He has commissioned works from Goldstaub, both as a soloist and for an ensemble.
“It’s really exciting to get a piece that’s written for you because it’s something brand new that no one else has,” Reynolds said. “It’s an organic process when you work with a composer. I find it exhilarating.”
He said Goldstaub has attended early rehearsals and worked with the performers, occasionally making changes in the piece. “Paul is so close to the work that he does,” Reynolds said. It’s so integral to his being that he feels like part of the piece itself. He has a built-in interest in being right in the middle of it.”
Reynolds said he appreciates the personal, even spiritual quality of Goldstaub’s compositions.
“Paul’s works are always introspective. Often they reflect deep-seated emotions he’s going through at the time. I like that because it’s really genuine. He gives a lot of thought to what he wants to say.”
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