Yes, this is a picture of the famous Surprised Kitty from youtube. I’ve put it into this post because I decided not to use the second movement that I wrote about in my last post. Unlike the kitty, I’m not really too surprised by this. It is a good reminder about the nature of the creative process, or at least what passes as my version of it.
When talking with other composers or artist types about their process in creating a work, I usually say that I “try to be ready to throw anything away, even if its painful to do so.” But today I wondered for the first time if I had developed this attitude before or after I had actually thrown away a day’s work. I think it was probably the latter, and I think it was probably I had thrown away many days of work. So, what seems like a bedrock philosophy is actually something closer to a rationalization, or perhaps a coping mechanism. I’ve heard that neuro-scientists have found that we are naturally programmed to forget the details of the most painful moments of human existence, like childbirth or broken bones or extreme trauma. So, perhaps my “philosophy” of composition is actually just a smoothing over of painful truths, a hushing of all the little unfinished pieces that cry out from my notebooks.
Okay, enough drama. I understand why most artists won’t talk about a work until its finished. No one wants to expose the uncertainty involved in the creative process because it can really contrast with the image of a confident performer on stage who has perfected his or her material, and a composer who knew all along just what he was doing. However, I feel that this is a worthwhile way to approach this blogging project. It will be interesting, for me at least, to look back and see the things I usually forget about my composition process and, hopefully learn a thing or two.
My next post will most likely occur after I’ve mostly finished the second movement. I think it will be worth doing an actual count of the different false starts of this movement that I wrote, then counting all the ideas that actually found their way into the finished version. I’m expecting to find that maybe %10 of the ideas I’ve generated so far will actually end up in the finished piece, and that wouldn’t be so bad. I’d be curious to know how other composers compare in this excercise, but then if I found out it might actually be too embarrassing. I’m sure that J.S. Bach, the Chuck Norris of the composition world, most likely had a 100% “conversion rate” as I’ll call it. I’ll keep you posted on that.
Tomorrow I’m off to the Chamber Music America conference where I will attempt to meet people all day long for four days straight. I have a hard time with events like this, but usually once I get going it works out well and I’m glad they’ve forgotten whatever it was I said to start the conversation. I imagine this conference will be like going on a first date every 5 minutes for four days. In all seriousness, I am very excited for the conference. There will be lots of people there and I’m ready to be inspired. Just as I’m now really getting into serious work with writing the commission, I’m also getting into the serious part of booking the performances for the ensemble. This is easily my least favorite part of the process, as so few presenters have been interested in what I’m doing, but when I find the ones who are even the least bit interested, it can actually be very fun to work with them. Hopefully I will meet one or two people who might be interested in the final work.
My apologies for the silence of this blog for the last couple weeks. I’ve been spending some glorious days very involved with composing and haven’t wanted to take time to write words, but I must press on with this blog, I feel the recording of this process will be interesting later on, but only if I actually write some posts! In the last two days I’ve been working on an essay about my experience performing the music of Christian Wolff with the composer and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The experience was unforgettable, and I hope the essay will help to explain. No scoreboard this time, but I promise, next time!