|George Crumb's Makrokosmos II, Mvt. 12|
Originality seems to have a high place of honor in our thinking (mine at least), and yet our society doesn't respond with much enthusiasm for completely original thoughts. Off-the-wall solutions that no one else has conceived are often met with ridicule and judgment. One has to think almost like everyone else with just enough originality to captivate and inspire. Too much innovation and people's minds rebel.
So why, when I am composing a piece of music, do I have this running criteria that it must be "original," that is must have completely new ideas that no other musician has ever considered? Some composers manage to do that some of the time. A century ago, the Impressionist movement (the most prominent figures of which were Debussy, Ravel, and Respighi) turned traditional harmony on its head. Debussy took it a step further and slipped out of traditional musical forms as well. But this didn't revolutionize the way people listened to music. We still hear the traditional harmonies and forms every time we turn on the radio. The influence of that innovation from a hundred years ago may be threaded into our 21st century musical expectations, but it didn't completely override the previous 200 years of musical development.
|Harry Partch's quadrangularis reversum|
So, I am releasing myself from the requirement that I must be an innovator. At the same time, I recognize that if I am simply true to my own creativity, the music I compose will convey my unique voice. Which is to say that I don't have to evaluate the originality of each discrete element in a piece in order to look at the completed product and see something of value. Perhaps this idea extends beyond the realm of composing as well. Perhaps there will be a time when we all set aside the obsession with originality and evaluate each idea on its own merit.