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The folly of composition

Posted by joshnewton16 on 3rd June 2012 in Composition, Touch, Weather

I realize that my process is different, or at least I hope that my process is different from what other composers go through.  I have told the story many times, and in many different forms, but it boils down to this.  My process is somewhat binary – the actual explosion of content is a sudden upsurge of music*, even though I may have been thinking through the parameters of a piece that I am working on for some time.  When I reach the point that I am actually, what most people would call, writing it has become something that I must do, not necessarily something that I want to do.  But in somewhat obvious fashion, there must be something which kicks that process off – maybe a task, not necessarily inspiration, although thankfully they often go hand in hand.

Such was the impulse that I received earlier today.

For those of you not in Northern New England, it has rained for two days**.  And it has been a cold, driving ran, not one of those fun summer rains which almost tickle more than soak.  No, no, not here.  Pouring, drenching, cold rain.  Enough to make your joints ache, and for stoves to be lit by cursing owners.  Enough for pull-overs and blankets, and it’s goddamned June.  I would like to say that it is a surprise, and it’s atypical, but I looked back through my Facebook wall to see when my garden got washed out last year, and it was the same first weekend of June.  Shit.  Last year, it got nice again almost immediately, so I am hoping that the same thing happens.  I have re-started plants for the garden again, just in case.

There I was, downstairs, in my corner of the shared office space, listening to the rain, and watching “Touch” half-heartedly*** and flipping through the browser tabs**** and opened emails^ that I left myself, as a reminder that I wanted to take some action.  And there was a call for scores for miniature pieces (100 notes, or 60 seconds) that peaked my interest.  Nice instrumentation, something about it caught me, and I wanted to dive into it a little bit.  Nevermind that Minioperas opens tomorrow, Rapido the week after, and that I am meeting to talk about the Buster Keaton project on Tuesday.  I obviously need ANOTHER project.  The ensuing conversation in my head went something like this:

You know, a piece for clarinet and two voices might be neat.  I should add flute.  Yeah, that is it.  A Soprano and Baritone, why not.  Oh, and you know what I have been meaning to work with?  That book on German expressionist poetry.  What was it called?  Dreaming while Drowning?  Dancing?  No, that’s not it… but it’s around here somewhere… nope not on the shelf next to my desk… not in the bookcase with my scores, but what is the first book of Harry Potter doing there?  That belongs in that shelf over there… but the poetry book is still not there.  It must be upstairs, Hi wife, Hi Child, Hi Puppy, you look very warm on the bed watching Degrassi Junior High.  Ah, there it is:  MUSIC while drowning.  Perfect.  Let me go back downstairs.  Hmm, these English translations aren’t very good, I wonder if I can find the original German of Else Lasker-Schüler’s “O Gott” because it would probably sound pretty awesome in German… Yeah the original is better than the translation.  OK, let’s sit down and write now.

And in that hour, I lost the ambition to write… or at least the few sketches I started on sounded like crap enough ^* that I figured I didn’t actually have it today, after all, and that tomorrow is a good day to try again.  But will it be a rainy Sunday?  No.  No, that inspiration will have faded, and perchance be replaced by another.  No lesser, just different.  But at least the book is on my desk now.  That’s something, right?


* Boy, now THAT sounded sexual….

**  Five inches since noontime yesterday.  Ach!

*** You know, the show is good… I guess.  I am on episode 10 of Season 1.  And… well, I just want them to get somewhere already.  The plot elements of the individual episodes are nice, but those mini-plots take SUCH a backseat to the over-arching plot, and that over-arching plot is moving SO SLOWLY.  I guess I want to see more development of the secondary plots, or I want them to piss or get off the pot with Jake and the Amelia Sequence, etc.  I don’t care about the guy and his guitar, what is with the Hasidic Diamond Dealer!  But it’s Tim Kring ^**, who took the murder of cheerleader and made it last a whole season, so I don’t know why I am surprised.

**** 18 different browser tabs.

^ 5 emails.

^* Ever have music that sounds too much like Mahler to be good, but not Mahleran enough at the same time?  How weird is THAT?

^** Ah Heroes.  The Metallica of Sci-fi Television.  You went one season too far, guys!  Can we just forget that whole Carnival thing?  Yes?  Great, thanks.

3 Responses to “The folly of composition”

  1. shnootre says:

    sorry to hear about all that rain, but glad you found in it some inspiration…sounds like you’ve got a good stack of projects to keep you off the street this summer!

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