Saturday, November 24, 2007

Leftovers: Day 2

Happy Day #2 of Leftovers! May your cheesy potatoes, dressing, and green bean casserole be just as good today as they were when they were made!

Speaking of leftovers, I've noticed that many composers fill their sketchbooks with drafts of motives, sections, and even entire pieces that for one reason or another never make it into their official repertoire. Beethoven, for example, could fill notebooks with his discarded ideas.

These musical "leftovers" can be a great source of inspiration for future pieces. If nothing else, these fragments help the composer develop the craft of creating what she/he wants on the first try.

Strangely (or not?), I do not tend to leave leftovers. I was raised going to a Catholic grade school, where we were made to eat everything on our trays before leaving for recess. To this day I still thoroughly clean my plate at basically every meal. Perhaps this behavior has something to do with my obsessive (or is it compulsive?) need to have things orderly and complete.

And so it is with my writing of school assignments, blog entries (have you noticed?), and especially music. I do not write drafts. I do not revise (usually). I do not sit and bask in those timeless stretches of free, raw, unhindered creation. This is not to say that I am not creative, which I like to think I am, or that I do not enjoy composing, which I very much do. I mean simply that I am an exceptionally careful, cautious, meticulous composer. Each decision I commit to pencil and paper is carefully considered and, if I am successful, worth keeping.

I realize that this slow, methodical approach to composition might be more akin to a highly "academic" (whatever that means), intellectual musical aesthetic represented by Babbitt or Boulez. My product, however, tends to be more on the light romantic side, more in line with Barber or Menotti - if I may draw such favorable comparisons. I am not entirely sure what to make of my own self-analysis - either that I am a "left-brain" composer who lacks the courage to write inaccessible music, or that I am a "right-brain" romantic at heart who lacks the passion and creative abandon to write without censors.

I realize that most of the above categories and descriptions of composers and their styles are incapable of expressing the fluid, ambiguous nature of composers throughout history, particularly those in the ever-changing 20th and 21st centuries. Still, these categories, however artificial, give us composers a point of reference for describing our own work and aligning our own musical preferences with those that have gone before us.

...So, what to do? How can I break out of the safety of my thin but carefully-constructed shell (and do I need to)? I expect that improvisation will play a large role in my upcoming exploration of a freer, more emotional-generative approach to writing. I have a few ideas for how this could work, which will tie into my previously-promised post about compositional methods/techniques, but this will have to wait until later. So will my first draft of the Samuel Barber review, which I am currently mulling over.

Until next time... go create something!

No comments:

Post a Comment