Interview with Elliot Miles McKinley
Co-Artistic Director Hubert Ho recently caught up with Elliott Miles McKinley, composer and son of the late William Thomas McKinley. Professor Tom McKinley was an influential presence as a long-time faculty member at NEC. Here Elliott reminisces about his father, whose Paintings No. 8, originally commissioned by Dinosaur Annex, will be performed at our season opener on Friday Nov. 17, 2017.
HH: What is your favorite musical memory of your father?
EMM: I have too many on which to choose! But what I loved the most, and something which always made me feel safe and comfortable, was hearing him work: the occasional twinkle of notes and splashes of color with interesting chords emanated by the piano, punctuated by silence as he wrote (by silence I mean hearing the radio on in the background—he always had some talk show or baseball game on in the background). Hearing this activity made me feel like everything was right and normal as a kid and even later, when I’d go to visit.
HH: What did Dino Annex mean to your father?
EMM: I can’t say anything too specific, but I know that the ensemble was important for him, as were all of the great Boston-based new music groups (Collage, Boston Musica Viva, et al). I have fond memories of attending Dinosaur Annex concerts in the 1980s.
HH: Did you ever study composition with your father? In what ways did he influence your musical thinking?
Never in any official capacity. When I was learning harmony and starting to compose my own music, I would take him ideas and show him scores. He’d have a few things to say, some detailed some general, but I think he wanted me to learn on my own and also take direction from other mentors which I later came to really appreciate. I often studied his own music as I had access to a great library of his music readily available. Of course, it is hard not to have been influenced: His sense of harmony, and gesture, I think have made their way into my music, lensed through my own musical imagination.
HH: What can you tell us about the piece that we will hear on Friday November 17?
EMM: Funny thing: I haven’t heard this piece in 30 years! So, it will be like hearing a new work all over again. I am excited!