This is mantra which Dutilleux has reiterated in writings and interviews. I suppose it’s his way of saying “trust yourself,” a statement of pride in asserting one’s individuality in the world. It reminds me that what makes us uniquely human is our ability to absorb and synthesize material, to reason, to develop tastes, to fall in love with people, places, smells, sounds, memories. I have often mused on this phrase, especially when I have felt forces – be they artistic, economic, or socio-political – conspiring to push me strongly against my nature. Because of their grammatical construction in the negative, because of their insistence nuanced with gentleness, his words urge a generous defiance. For D'lux, music must be grounded in a context, be it a sense of place, a philosophical idea, a point of view, or a cultural milieu. In many conversations throughout the ten years I've known him, he has always insisted that composers should not shy away from what they love, that they should resist shutting out influences simply because they do not fit the “style du jour”. His own music was certainly neglected by those in his own country who advocated a "pureté de style".
It’s not an assertion that we as composers ought to make pastiche or collage of that which we admire or strive to emulate, but rather that we should invite what deeply moves us into the music we create. And that we should not feel embarrassed about rejecting that which we don’t love, since we can’t love everything. Only Jesus could do that, and he was half-divine, or so the Christians say…. As artists, we should treasure and embrace our likes and dislikes; they are character traits which cannot be obliterated by force nor by fashion, though they do (hopefully) evolve and change.
I suppose another interpretation of D’lux’s mantra might be “to thine own self be true”, or, more accurately, the contrapositive: “feel not the pressure to be true to that which is not thine own.” I have seen an almost childlike reverence in D'lux when he describes a piece of music that he loves, be it Ravel or Sarah Vaughan. And I find myself reminded how precious our tastes are; they define our musical core; they are what – originally – drew us inexorably to music one the most elemental level, and they guide us towards uncharted territories that we can explore with confidence and passion.