Saturday, June 02, 2007

It'll never fly, Orville.

It's good to have someone you trust around or about who's willing to listen to recent work and offer a quick response. It doesn't matter whether the music is all but doornail-dead finished or still a mess of sketches or fragments. It doesn't even really matter whether the response is good, bad, indifferent, critical or constructive, to the point or totally off the mark. Running sounds or a score by another set of ears is useful, if not essential, when there's any doubt about the project, and equally useful when you've mislead yourself into being doubt-free. It places the music in the world for a moment, to establish some concrete relationship between you, it, and the world; it's like dipping a toe into water in order to figure out if you're really going to commit yourself or decide instead to back away and try later.

Although I never managed to get an "A" in "gets along well with others" (I could have modeled for the picture in the illustrated dictionary next to the definition of misanthrope), this small bit of social exchange has become an essential part of my working method. Other composers like to play with their cards close to the chest, and hesitate sharing their work in progress. I envy that confidence, but in my case the line between doubt and confidence, particularly when considering a fairly outrageous idea (e.g. the latest Quartet begins with a parody of a well-known bit of neo-classical parody and ends -- after a series of moves I can only characterize as Fellini-esque -- with variations on a piece from the ritual repertoire of Bali Aga), is unclear, and sharing the sounds for a moment can force an overdue confrontation with reality. And only after that confrontation am I able to follow or ignore the real world with the required confidence or even audacity.

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