Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I was working today on composing using virtual instruments, sounds created primarily by electronic means instead of acoustic instruments. I was choosing the palette for a piece, picking the specific sounds that would comprise the various elements of the music.

Before starting any composition, it's helpful to me not only to have a clear vision of what I want a piece to sound like but also to determine the general structure of the piece. When I am writing for acoustic instruments, the timbre of the piece is already limited. If the piece is intended to be performed by a flute and a cello, the "colors" will consist of sounds which can be produced by one of those instruments. Such limitations are somewhat beneficial to a composer. Without some boundaries, a piece might never get written.

When I am devising a set of timbres for a non-acoustic piece, my choices become exponentially broader. It can be a bit intimidating. I have much more control over every facet of a sound than when I write for human performers. Which means many more decisions. I never have to decide exactly how the members of a string quartet balance with one another, or how much reverb will be present in a particular performance space, or just how short a staccato note will be played. Or, or, or... All these options and more are at my discretion with a piece created on a computer.

To be completely honest, it's a lot of fun to play with all the details of a sound. When I get through with this creative preparation, I find I am a little more keenly tuned in to other details around me. It makes me wonder what little details I typically ignore, and I want to hold on to the heightened awareness as long as possible. Something will distract me eventually, but I am convinced that being aware is a choice.

I used to think that I needed to partition my life into my different areas of focus, but more and more I am seeing how everything feeds into the whole. The various ways I spend my time and energy don't have to distract from or compete with one another. Being creative begets creativity, and paying attention to details leads to greater awareness of details. The various ways I spend my time and energy don't have to distract from or compete with one another. They are all just part of a complete me.

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