Friday, December 15, 2006

Getting ideas

This morning, bicycling home after dropping my daughter off at Kindergarten, I noticed a couple things. First, there were the white trucks. On the way, I passed by four unmarked, white, lorries. Commercial vehicles around here usually carry some advertisement, or at least a logo. These were blank. All were parked near crossroads, and none of them seemed to have a driver or passenger in them. Then there was the siren. I pulled to the right curb as usual, but the siren was unfamiliar, and the red emergency van blasting the siren belonged to the State of Hessen Catastrophe Protection Service. I'd never heard of that particular bureaucracy before. Finally, there were the flocks of geese headed north. Five or six huge flocks, in formation, moving in the wrong direction, and awfully late into the year.

Okay. That particular collection of factoids was probably adequate and sufficient material to sustain about two hundred pages of fiction, or, in the right frame of mind, at least a good morning's worth of paranoia. It usually takes a configuration somewhat like that for me to get committed to writing a new piece of music. It could be a couple of notes, memory of a lost shoelace, and the shape of a sweetpotato. Or it could be a tempo, a broken timepiece, and the sense of uncertainty-about-when-to-panic when my son is too late coming home from school.

Mostly, my ideas are musical (the extramusical ideas are usually private and so worked-over as not to be recoverable by anyone) and take the form of what would happen if a bit of familiar music went a slightly different way. I enjoyed the adventure (and even the touch of paranoia) of the actual route I took home this morning, but I only really started composing when I started contemplating the alternative routes not taken. The photographer Ansel Adams said something about waiting to click the camera until he saw something that was literally not there, and there's something like that to composing. You take all that you hear and all that you know about how music works and then wait for the moment when the music does something altogether new.

1 comment:

Daniel Wolf said...

I wanted to insert something here about new music being the insertion of a fiction into the texture of the real world, but that would have been pretentious even for me. Oh well.