The American composer talks about new works, the loneliness of composing and the future of music.

Your new work for violin and orchestra is called Scheherazade.2. What was the impetus behind it? 

As is often the case, several things came together. I had known this wonderful violinist Leila Josefowicz for almost 15 years. She’s played my first concerto, we think, over a hundred times, which is astonishing, and with almost every orchestra on the planet. She’s also played another piece of mine, The Dharma at Big Sur, which required her to get a six-string electric violin and learn the instrument, which is kind of amazing too and was an indication of how devoted she was to my music. So I really did intend to write her a piece.

Then about three years ago, maybe, I was in Paris and I went to an exhibition that took up the entire Arab World Institute. It was all about Scheherazade – her story and all the different manifestations of her throughout history, ever since the first edition of  The Arabian Nightswas brought out. Somehow that struck a chord, because I suddenly had this idea for a work that would not only be a...