For our 2019-2020 season, we are honored to welcome David Ludwig as our Composer in the Community. David’s works are featured in three of our concerts, including the world premiere of The Bleeding Pines at our March 21 concert, Ludwig AND Beethoven.
Recently we spoke with David to learn more about him as a composer and an artist.
SYMPHONY TACOMA: You come from a family of musicians. Tell us about growing up in such an eminent family and how it shaped your career as a composer. [Note: David is the nephew of pianist Peter Serkin, grandson of pianist Rudolf Serkin, and great grandson of violinist Adolf Busch.]
DAVID LUDWIG: It was important to me while I was coming up to make my own way as a musician, but as I got older I grew to embrace my background and family heritage. That’s become increasingly important to me and part of the reason I took “Serkin” as a middle name. I love it.
ST: What instruments did you play growing up?
DL: I never played an instrument so well that I’d go to conservatory for it, but as I like to say I played many instruments badly! My first was percussion, then cello, then I focused on guitar (classical and otherwise) after that. Piano, of course, and I sang a lot in choruses, played clarinet and flute in a jazz and funk band for a bit… and then I’ve conducted a fair amount. For me it’s only been helpful to have these experiences as a composer.
ST: What inspires you the most in your compositions?
DL: I like to tell stories with my music and see the work ultimately as a vehicle to share some kind of message, be it political, artistic, emotional, spiritual, or all of the above. For me as an artist every piece must come with a message and narrative, so I’m inspired by something in the news, or a painting that’s pursued my thoughts, or global climate change, or even another piece of music.
ST: The Bleeding Pines is based on a play by poet Ray Owen. Tell us about your collaboration and what prompted you to compose the work.
DL: Ray is an extraordinary writer and poet, and just a wonderful person. We’ve collaborated now on a number of projects about one of his great loves, the longleaf round-top pine forest of Southern Pines North Carolina where he has lived his whole life. The forest has an amazing story to tell after facing near extinction from logging and tapping. Poignantly, it survives through fire, which I hope speaks to those who have experienced the devastating fires of the Pacific Northwest, firsthand. Climate change affects us all, and Ray’s story is ultimately one of great hope and sends the message that one person can make a terrific difference in the world.
ST: What is the most important advice you would give to aspiring composers?
DL: Be open. That’s it—openness is the most powerful tool an artist can have.
ST: What are some of your interests outside of music (i.e., what do you like to do in your spare time)?
DL: I live in Philadelphia with my wife Bella Hristova (who is performing my Violin Concerto with Symphony Tacoma this year [in April]) and our four cats: Uni (named after our favorite sushi), Schmoopy (a Seinfeld reference), Frankie (after Bella’s favorite Sci-Fi actor, Frankie Adams), and Lili (after one of my favorite composers, Lili Boulanger). With those four and our lives in music, it doesn’t give a lot of time for much else, but I am a hapless Philadelphia sports fan and we are both passionate Kindle users!