…so I told myself at the beginning of the summer that I was going to post more often. For whatever reason. And here we are, June…how ya doing June…and one post. Way to go, me.
Just about finished with my orchestra piece. Writing for orchestra is kind of like writing for wind ensemble, with strings. But not at all because the roles of the instruments change so dramatically. Anyone else find this true? Hopefully, because that is the thesis for my dissertation, more or less.
The piece is, finally, turning out OK. I had a draft done the second week of May which I asked my darling lady to listen to. Dramatic genius that she is, she gently let me know that, in so uncertain terms, the piece was pretty bad. And thus began the process that has led to today.
I think that in a few years I will be able to point to that day, as I was sitting on deck talking with Shannon, as the moment I figured out how to write music. All throughout school I finished assignments, pieces for requirements, for other people, demonstrating the technique of getting things on the page by the next lesson, with some sort of linear (or not) narrative. The process itself is important – can you make something look good, sound good and have it be done by a certain time. But the output, the product, is not important. I’m not proud of anything I showed my teachers over the last few years. It is music that shall be forever stuck in second gear, driving on the shoulder of the road at 35mph.
Now, all that said, I am proud of some music that I have written over the past few years. But it isn’t what I was writing during the semester. It is music that I wrote as I stretched out, away from school, as I pretended I was an artist.
What I discovered with Bloom is that writing music is actually, indeed, supposed to be linked with making art. Not solving a puzzle. Not producing something for tomorrow that will be complete. It is so much harder than that. It has to be perfect. And it doesn’t matter how long that takes. No one would care that The Messiah was written in a month if it sounded like hot garbage. And no one cares that Varese only wrote the seemingly insignificant amount of music that he did. Because its all so good.
So, I ripped the piece apart. Then I did it again. And again. Each time starting over, but each time a little more focused. I would have turned in any of the drafts to a teacher and felt proud of the accomplishment. Now, as I am writing this, all I want to do is rip the piece apart again, to get it closer to what it needs to be. Peter Jackson said about editing the LoTR movies that you can’t make anything perfect, ever – you just run out of time. I get it now.
Oh, and the Cubs are terrible. Yeah, life!
Studying for my comprehensive exams (called “pre-lims” at U of I) has been an interesting experience. I am starting to understand that 1. I have learned absolutely nothing in my classes (this is not true of course, but it is a grain of sand in the desert of everything music), and that 2. this is how you live as a professional musician. One step at a time, one composer, piece, artistic style, philosophy, social movement, whatever at a time. Until you think you know everything. Then you look at the students of every composer that you just studied. Then you take a nap and do it again. Unfortunately, I can’t remember names to save my life so I am pretty sure I’ll be reduced to drawing crude pictures of Schumann and Brahms holding hands, or of Schoenberg riding an atomic bomb while wearing a cowboy hat. That outta do it.