Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview With Composer David Ludwig


David Ludwig, 2018 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to composer David Ludwig (2018), whose contemporary classical compositions address a wide range of topics—from climate change and astronomical phenomena, to gun violence and religious traditions. Ludwig’s work has been commissioned and performed by numerous internationally known artists and ensembles, and recognized by the American Composers Forum, National Endowment for the Arts, and NPR’s “Top 100 Composers Under 40.”

The world premiere of The Anchoress—supported by a Center Project grant—is a monodrama that imagines the life of a medieval mystic, set to poetry by Katie Ford and merging the sounds of ancient and modern worlds to explore issues of faith, isolation, and power. The work debuts as part of Philadelphia Chamber Music Society’s season at the Kimmel Center on Oct. 17, 2018.

David Ludwig discusses "The Anchoress"

Composer David Ludwig discusses The Anchoress, premiering October 17, 2018 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

David Ludwig Q&A: Content Block 2

How did you become an artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?

I grew up with an extended family of musical artists, though in my nuclear family there are lawyers and such. And so strangely, music was always around me, but at an arm’s length until I could study it on my own. At that point music became a refuge, and the best vehicle I had to express my thoughts and feelings. There was no one experience, just a practice I had to find my way into.

What is your daily art-making routine?

I like to wake up as early as I can, when there is little or no street noise outside and the light is still that particular shade of blue. I feel like I hear the best in that morning stillness, that my inner ears are clear and my imagination isn’t distracted by everything that accumulates through the day. I’ll try to compose from then until the late morning or early afternoon. Then I tend to everything that has called out for attention during the day.

Whose opinion about your work do you respect most?

My wife is a uniquely gifted violinist named Bella Hristova. She is not only my life partner but also my “editor-in-chief.” She rarely volunteers an opinion about what I’m working on, but when she does I listen very carefully because she is always right. I try to play my pieces for her, but as I plunk away at the piano and sing various parts, she can only nod and smile, not knowing what’s going on in my head as I’m flailing to recreate the music. But when we look at a score together or listen to a rehearsal she gives me the most clear and useful feedback, and I’m just so grateful for it. Composers, unlike writers, don’t have editors!

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

When I was very young—until I was about five years old—I wanted to be a steamroller. When I eventually learned this wasn’t possible, I wanted to write words and then full plays. Composing music has many if not all of the same fundamental concerns as playwriting, so that all makes sense to me. I’ll add that I’m also available to play third base on the Phillies if they’re interested.

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