This essay interview with Joan Tower is a meditation on the importance of composing, understood as a process larger than the making of new sound combinations or musical scores, suggesting that the compositional act is self-educative and self-forming. Tower's musical life, one of teaching and learning, one of composing and self-composing, is an exemplary model for a lifetime of risk, curiosity, and hard work. Her own struggles to balance the rich traditions that funded her growth as a composer with the freedom to push against that tradition invite music educators to reflect upon the way that self-agency is found within this tension.


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