Question: How do you overcome composer's block?
John Harbison: Often … this sounds more composed than it is, but often by waiting it out. That’s never a decision. It’s only a submission to realizing something can’t be there when you want it to be there I have to catechize myself. I have to talk myself into it. I think we’re all instilled with various levels of confidence. I’ve always been interested in reading Benjamin Britten’s statements. Almost his whole career is described in terms of level of confidence. I wrote that piece I was on a high level of confidence. Some people have that in great abundance, but others have to cultivate it like a garden. I guess what I would consider to be an ideal universe would be a universe in which everyone has spent part of the day reading a poem or, you know, building something on their house they think is beautiful; a society in which everyone’s contribution to it was to make their corner more of an aesthetic experience. And I think the only society that’s actually achieved that informally, partly because it’s kind of an innate hedonism, and partly because of talent, is probably the many, many, centuries from … , Italy where every house seems to be … in a little town, seems to have been made part of a composite work.
Recorded On: 6/12/07