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Steve Murray – Berkshire Music

People ask me, “What motivates your writing?” I say, “Life.” All of the important things that ever happened to me are somewhere reflected in my music.

It is no wonder that I chose the Berkshires as the place where I would settle, make a home, raise a family, develop a career, and take the name of Berkshire Music for my business. The land took hold of me when I first spied it as a young man. Its clean air, clear skies, its natural beauty, changing seasons, rural but cosmopolitan atmosphere, cultural richness and its talented and intellectual populace all impressed me greatly, and they have conspired to enrich me and my muse.

During those early years when I was an active instrumentalist as well as a choral director, my writing covered a wide range of genres and styles. Instrumental chamber music, music for the ballet, music for the theatre, stage, the jazz club, or the recital hall were all places where my muse took me. My great love for jazz and the many years playing it has greatly informed my concert pieces. I have come to agree with Ken Burns who said that jazz is America’s finest export.

It goes without saying that during my life here in the Berkshires, events, places and people have motivated my compositional efforts, and I am doubly pleased that these things permeate my writing to varying degrees. That writing is mostly tonal, pan tonal and occasionally atonal. Not surprisingly, it is tinged with jazz harmonies, it is accessible, and since the bulk of my efforts for the last decade and a half have been in the area of choral and solo vocal music, it relies greatly on matters textual as well as singability. I read a lot of poetry and sometimes a poem jumps out at me asking to be set to music. Other times I am, in the case of commissioned work, given a text to set or a topic to use as the basis for a piece.

My writing has been motivated by events close to my life, too close to be dealt with by any other medium than music; the passing of a dear friend, the dissolution of a marriage, the letting go of friends, the cooling of passions, and a brush with death to mention a few. So too, the lingering memories of wonderful occasions and associations fill my life and music. My performing and travels with Albany Pro Musica have given me a plethora of times filled with joy and amazement, as well as a choral family for which I have great love and affection. I owe much of my success as a composer to this family and its music making. Albany Pro Musica is heard performing many of the choral works to be found on this site.

Through it all, I come back to the natural setting of the Berkshires and the happiness I’ve found by living in them. Florence Williams, fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University, in her January 2016 National Geographic article “This is Your Brain on Nature,” states that “Nature can improve creativity by up to fifty percent.” I like to think this has worked for me.