Sunday, April 26, 2009

Finding My Way into the Music

I was working on a piece of music for a solo instrument. My idea was initially to write it in such a way that a variety of soloists could perform the piece, whether they be vocalists, wind players, or string players. The more I worked on it, the more I found myself being pulled in one direction or another that I would stifle because it wouldn't work well in just any timbre. After setting a few of these limitations, I started to be less interested in the piece. Small wonder. The musical material wanted to grow into something that I wasn't allowing.

Recognizing that I was essentially binding my piece into an unnecessarily rigid shape, I started working from a few inspirational points to create something unique yet related for various colors, not worrying about whether just any instrument would be able to play a particular passage. What has begun to emerge is a set of related pieces that each express similar material in different ways, not only due to a specific timbre, but also because I am allowing the music to become idiomatic for different instruments.

The realization and the resulting freedom and renewed excitement for this piece prepared me for another limitation I was trying to set, this one notational. I wanted to indicate a particular sound, but I was insisting on using traditional notation. I kept trying to figure out the perfect way to write down what I wanted, but I was ignoring a broad range of possibilities. It was a bit paralyzing. Until I took a breath, stepped back from the piece, and became aware that I was doing it again. I was essentially deciding why I couldn't write the piece I really wanted.

What I wound up with notationally is not terribly avant garde. At most it's a bit unorthodox. And it is perfect for what I hear in my head. As I find my way into (and maybe even get a little lost in) the musical material, I am more and more captivated by what I allow myself to hear and write. Why would I keep trying to put limitations on that?

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