Monday, November 07, 2011

Reflections On Not Having Composed Even One Note For Two Months

I have excuses: I've had things to do. There were things that needed to get done first. I did them. They received priority status. I have other things which still need to be done, which also have priority, but I finally managed to carve out a little time to create some music. I really needed that. And I kick myself because carving out a few hours is not THAT difficult. Once I do it I think "I could have done this sooner." because I enjoy doing it. Then my inner nag says "You should do this more often." and I tell my inner nag that it "should" shut up.

Anyway, I wrote a 30 Second Spot. This one is 46 seconds long. Eventually, after about an hour of work when the piece was pretty much finished, I realized that I needed to save the file. This was a problem because I didn't have a title yet. I decided to call the music exactly what it was: my thoughts about starting to write music again after a long hiatus. I worked with the words. The title kept getting longer the more I tweaked it. The final title is not great.

My actual thoughts are not in the title; the title does not tell you how I feel. The music tells you how I feel. My thoughts come out though the music. Or maybe they don't. Maybe there are no thoughts, no ideas, in this music. Maybe there are no thoughts or ideas in any music. Maybe thoughts and ideas can only be expressed in words. That's a thought.

One of the funny things about a piece like this is that I can spend an hour writing it and then three or four times as long removing excess notes: decomposing (yes, it's the punchline of a bad joke). "Polishing" is a better word. I wait for a few hours or overnight, then listen carefully and focus on any spot which sounds "wrong" to me.  Every piece, even a short one like this seems to feature a Problem Spot - a moment that simply doesn't feel right no matter how much I futz with it. "Reflections On Not Having Composed Even One Note For Two Months" had such a conundrum measure - but I eventually found a happy solution.

The other thing about this piece is that I dreamed the opening. I occasionally dream short melodic fragments. I find myself singing them as I awake.  Mostly they evaporate into the fog of regaining consciousness.  Sometimes I can get them written down. I have a small "dream journal" of melodies which I'd like to use in a bigger piece someday.  (Another plan that'll probably never happen.)  "Twenty Balls In My Fingers And I'm Not Done Yet" was such a dreamed tune (one with lyrics as well) which did become a 30 Second Spot.

But this dream was different.  Instead of waking up with a melody, I awoke to a sequence of single digit numbers, somehow knowing that they were supposed to be a tone row: 1 0 8 2 6 1.  Zero?  I used my little row to begin the piece, then I repeated it with some non-strict elaboration.  Then I lost interest. And the piece wasn't even half finished.

I suspect that even the speediest readers, if you've gotten this far, have spent more time reading this than they will spend listening to Reflections On Not Having Composed Even One Note For Two Months.  And if you try to figure out from the music just what I did think about writing music again after two months of not writing music, you probably won't know what to say.  It's impossible to express music in words.  That's why it's music.

Click to hear Reflections On Not Having Composed Even One Note For Two Months
Copyright © 2011 David Ocker - 46 seconds

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1 comment:

synthetic said...

I enjoyed it, thanks. I read a blog from a composer who writes three minutes a day, every day. A great goal. Maybe I'll work up to three minutes a week.

Are you recording these right out of Sibelius? They are a bit distorted. You should lower the levels and/or add a limiter if that bothers you (it seemed unintentional).