Christopher Shultis is a Regents’ Professor of Music at the University of New Mexico. His early musical life was as a performer, specifically a percussionist and conductor specializing in the interpretation of experimental music. His first compositions were experimental in nature. Beginning with an exploration of sound and the world in which those sounds occur, Shultis’s current work is an examination of self in that world and the sounds that he hears as a result are what he writes down. Using Thoreau’s statement, “My life is what I would have writ but I could not both live and utter it,” as a guide, beginning in 1995 with the process of composing a little light, in great darkness Shultis has been finding a way to compose that doesn’t try to immortalize something (“great art,” “great composer”) so much as report something about his journey.
Like Thoreau, Shultis is a walker and his current music almost always happens during walks: “My music is the sound of what I hear when I walk, the result of the particular path I take. Its originality comes solely from the fact that it is my walk and not yours. I write because I must. But to listen is always a choice. One possible connection between myself and the world is through listening to what I write, because after I’ve written it, we’re all listeners, all equals, all free to either enjoy what we hear or not. My desire is to write beautiful music and to fail at that is, for me, a very important sign of its success. Failed beauty is the condition of the world. Our humanity is rooted in such failure. Because only when we fail are we truly human-and beautiful.”