The Helfman Experiment
On April 11, 2010, we began a noble experiment. Could we bring together, and keep together, a group of diverse, musically talented, busy, working composers – people who spend their time doing movies and television and video games and theater – and have them create religious music, and do it with no monetary incentive? Could we do this simply because it needs to be done? Could there be composers of secular music for whom a taste of the sacred would be compensation enough? And one more question: Is building a legacy of meaningful creative expression sufficient to distract from the relentless tug that demands we feed the machine of secular entertainment?
Writing music that praises God rarely puts money in the mailbox. It’s unlikely to bring fame. But something interesting has happened. In peeling away the usual incentives, each of us who has been a part of this group has gained something immeasurable: the comradeship, and honest and genuine concern of peers for our own work. We have found a sounding board that does not exist in our little studios, and we’ve learned not to fear, but to cherish the critiques and re-directions offered by others in the group. The usual wall of defense largely evaporates, because the contest for supremacy is a non-starter. We all win. We win because we strive with ourselves, and as composer Samuel Adler has said, we labor for something that is greater than ourselves.
And that makes all the difference.