I have spent the last several years trying to figure out what to do with myself, having given up on finding a tenure track faculty job somewhere. I found it was really hard to be productive without being part of an active artistic community. I also found it was really hard to be productive without having access to a 24 hour coffee shop with free wireless. Heck, I’d settle for a coffee shop that closes at midnight–the kind I used to go to if I wanted to make sure they’d kick me out at some point so I’d wake up in time to be at a morning appointment. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes creativity work. On the one hand, I seem to be a fairly creative person who has original ideas. On the other hand, I’ve met very few people who think as rigidly as me. Actually, I only have one friend (who I know of) who is as spatially rigid as me–she’s the only other person who doesn’t think it’s OK to put the cinnamon back somewhere vaguely in the vicinity of where it came from instead of just putting it back in exactly the same spot where it was before. She does amazing drawings, which has gotten me thinking about how creativity and rigidity mesh. Continue reading
Really good new music or art. It’s got to be new. It’s got to be something I haven’t seen before. Usually when I’m not composing it’s because I’m feeling disconnected from the music-making community which makes my work feel irrelevant. Since I’m in a small town and there aren’t a lot of musicians I can go hang out with, art and music become a proxy for community. A good piece of art makes me feel connected–like maybe my music matters too. Continue reading
One of the things a lot of composers I’ve talked to wrestle with is the problem of performance. We’ve specialized and aren’t performers. We write virtuosic works for virtuosic performers of instruments we can’t play virtuosically ourselves.
I’m struggling to come up with an idea for a micro-composition today. I have a few tricks I can use to just generate raw material, but that is unsatisfying. I used them in earlier sketches that I don’t even want to copy, so obviously I reject this material. I think one problem is that I keep feeling like I have to generate traditional musical material. This is just not my idiom. Maybe I’m having trouble with this piece because I have a sense that I need to write something traditional.
I have a blank book full of sketches lying around in a box somewhere (hazard of moving). But one tendency I am noting myself is a tendency to lose interest in old material. I find myself completely unmotivated to dig up the book and enter those micro-compositions into the collection of snippets for the piece I actually wrote them for in the first place. Furthermore, I am not even sure that they belong in the piece anymore.
Three posts in, and already I’ve got a running theme: compositional blocks. Bunita Marcus advised me some time ago to get around this by breaking compositions down into ‘discrete doable tasks.’ Which itself gave me a great idea for a piece that’s been knocking around on the meta-compositional back burner ever since.
Since falling out of academia, I’ve had trouble with follow through. I have great ideas, then I think, “Why bother? I have no means of getting my ideas out there.” It’s a huge problem for me. I’m sure it’s a huge problem for lots of people. But without audiences and deadlines and some sort of creative/intellectual exchange, how is it functionally different to just think through a musical idea rather than thinking through the idea and actually bothering to write it down? Continue reading