Sunday, November 18, 2012
Discipline and Belief
So, I've initiated a project — the details of which will be hush-hush until the end of January — which involves at least 18 composers and an equal number of ground basses. For my own contribution, I decided to compose first and notate later, getting the music I wanted in my ear, mind, hands, and tongue (it's wind music) before committing it to paper or monitor, as a way of increasing discipline in a musical environment that is, for me, both so rich and so familiar that going on auto pilot and just writing something out was simply too easy. (Sounding easy, which I might want, is not the same as composed easy, which I don't necessarily want.) At the same time, knowing that I was going to commit some notes to paper put a powerful — and powerfully useful — constraint on my paper- and screenless composing, in that I was not going to accept just some more noodling-around-out-of-habit improvisation. When it came time to notate, this discipline had turned into a serious commitment to each note, a need, even, to believe in each note before drawing it on a page or clicking it into the data file. Perhaps most symptomatic of this is the fact that I couldn't bring myself to copy and paste anything, not even the repetitions of the ground bass. If that ostinato is going to remain obstinate, then I damn well want to mean it, and if that ground bass starts to get a little less grounded, then I'm taking full responsibility.