Vale William Duckworth (13.01.1943 – 13.09.2012)

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The following is a copy of a reading that I gave at Bill’s memorial in Brisbane, Australia at the QLD Conservatorium of Music, 20.11.2012. 

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The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason. – John Cage

It was Bill Duckworth who first told me, that for every composer I didn’t know or was yet to understand, that there was always one piece that could act as a gateway and open the doors to a new world of music and enjoyment. In fact, Bill had many words of wisdom to offer a young composer such as myself and spent much of his life planting the seeds of encouragement and growth in so many of us around the world. His influence is so great on my outlook, that one can only imagine the size of the legacy he has gifted to Brisbane, New York and the world.

For me, Bill’s legacy will always live the most in his humanity: the warm, wise and generous part of his spirit that touched me so deeply. If I may provide but one example:

In 2010, after attending a music festival composition program in Maine, USA, I made my first visit to Manhattan. I would call it the ‘big apple’, but Bill’s jovial remarks about being a tourist still ring too clearly in my ears. I was 23, traveling alone and knew no one on the island. I was naïve, but excited to explore the city and it was Bill that met me in my hotel lobby on the first morning I arrived. He guided me around the city over two days, pretending like he had nothing better to do and being characteristically generous with his time, encouragement, legendary stories and interest in my composition. On one evening after a concert at the Lincoln Centre we went out to a marvelous dinner and after days of paying for lunches and cabs, he wouldn’t let me touch the bill. I said to him, “Bill, how can I repay your generosity?” Without hesitation he answered, “do the same for others”. And there it was, laid out so simply before me, ‘spread on my acts of kindness, be generous, do the same to others’. 

These were words I had never head another composer speak before Bill and they resonated so clearly with the person that I wanted to be. Bill planted the seed of generosity and kindness within me and this is the mantra that I now live by. I strive ‘to do the same for others’, to take an interest, to provide opportunities, to support and encourage other composers in the way that Bill looked out for me.  Bill’s legacy will forever live on in me and I know that the seeds he planted in so many like me will continue to grow and spread, especially here in Brisbane. I personally have so much to thank him for and I can see no better way to celebrate his extraordinary life and love than through his music here today.

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