Diary of a Composer
Welcome to the first post of this blogging project.
As you may or may not know already, I was the very proud and very surprised recipient of a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant in 2011. This is a great program which includes as its centerpiece a commission for a new, large-scale work for a small jazz group. When I first found out about the NJW grant I knew that it was perfect for my group. The grant supports an ensemble that has worked together with the same core musicians for at least two years, and AnyWhen Ensemble fits this bill perfectly. We had only been together a year at that point, so I waited until the next year, then I applied. It was my first application, so I feel very lucky to have been chosen as a recipient on my first go-round, though it certainly wasn’t my first application to a grant. I’ve gotten plenty of rejection letters, and will continue to get them. This was the first big one that I had gotten. Hopefully I’ll get more, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Composing for money is nice and a great honor in this case, but I’ve composed for free before and won’t hesitate to do it again.
I’ll be keeping an online diary documenting the process of creating the piece. The reasons for this are pretty basic. I’m very interested in the creative process itself, and I feel that documenting each step of the creation of a single work would be a good way to learn something about how I compose. I have some reservations about this. I want to be careful not to learn too much. Knowing everything about something can sometimes be a bad idea. I like to work intuitively, perhaps even haphazardly, if that’s even a word, so the idea of writing down what happened every day that I worked on the piece may be….well, uncomfortable. I do believe in mystery. Its one of my core beliefs in the practice of art, and by that I mean that mystery, the embrace of the unknown in all its unpredictable glory, is a necessary part of creation for me. So, documentation could be somewhat counterproductive, but then, a little discipline never hurt anybody. But, who knows if discipline will be a result? Perhaps I’ll be documenting all the messiness of the process and that won’t change a thing. I’m leaning towards this answer, but I’m sure I won’t be able to say what I think until quite later.
The keeping of an online diary, a public blog about your work, is a time-honored tradition. The great composers of the renaissance, Josquin, Ockeghem, Palestrina….all of these cats were blogging. You better believe it. In the jazz world, Duke Ellington’s “Beyond Category Blog” where he put all his thoughts, over five times a day and including his deepest, darkest insight and also the contents of his lunch, was a crowning achievement of the form. So, I forthwith and heretofore embark on a great errand, aided only by my pencil and paper, my keyboard, my window looking out the back of my apartment, my cat Wally, and the great inheritance of all the genius composer-bloggers of to aid me. Look to this quote from Beethoven’s “Deaf Jamz” blog for what I mean:
“I totally wrote like eight pages today. I’m such a big deal. In other news, my cat Hippocratus puked on my foot while I was filling in some counterpoint. I overdid the catnip I guess. These are the things you deal with when you’re a composer.” – Ludvig van Beethoven, 1802
My intent is not to make this project seem like a big deal, or like this blog was some kind of novel idea, but just to recognize that there are some contradictions here. The words “diary” and “public” really ought not go together, but here I go. I will share some of my inner thoughts, but nothing that I wouldn’t tell you over coffee. This is not meant to be an autobiography, nor will the piece be auto-biographical. Its just a writing down of what I did, and if anyone wants to read it, I think they may find it interesting. That’s all. Okay. So, I’ll begin actually writing down notes soon, but until next time, here’s today’s scoreboard:
Because I didn’t actually write anything. Talk to you later.