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Classical 101

Composers Incorporated: An Interview with "non-Composer" Luke Brevoort

Luke Brevoort's new album, 'Ultimo Maximo,' let's you decide a lot for yourself. What does the title mean? Is there humor or is that just what your mind brings to the work? Moreover, is this a composition or a band or...?

"What is the difference between a composer and a songwriter?" my thesis advisor asked me just the other day. It's a question that has been coming up in various forms for many years, but as the gap between composers and audiences closes in some respects (namely, the web) who decides between the two titles? I sat down with drummer and recent "non-composer" Luke Brevoort to get his input.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, commonly known as ASCAP, has two positions for writers of music; Composers and Songwriters. Their homepage states: 

"Join more than 555,000 fellow songwriters, composers and publishers who have taken the pivotal step of becoming ASCAP members."

So what's the difference? How many instruments does music need for it to be considered a composition rather than a song? Does songwriter simply refer to a musician who writes lyrics?... Then what is a lyricist, and how does opera fit in?

Basically: Who gets to be a composer, and why? 

I asked musician and self-proclaimed "non-composer," Luke Brevoort, to sort through his attitudes about composition, his new album, and exactly what makes a composer.

Luke's new album, Ultimo Maximo is available for free, online, with full liner notes and descriptions. The work debuted last month at an independent film house in Clintonville, and I was lucky enough to catch the premiere.

His work is as much of a Gesamtkunstwerk (German pronunciation: [gə.ˈzamtˌku̇nstˌveɐ̯k] as anything Wagner produced; Luke refers to the three-year solo project as "totalitarian." He wrote every motif, played every instrument, and even mastered the album himself before releasing it independently online. 

But yet, he does not consider himself a composer. 

Luke's attitude likely reflects something larger than his individual opinion; how often do we separate "Classical" music and "composers" into their own designations, and what does that reflect about the American perspective on the accessibility of this music? 

There are a lot of unanswered questions here, and I'd love to hear what you think. Comment below or email me directly.