littlecolourfulteacher

littlecolourfulteacher

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the creative process

April 23, 2016 , , , , , , ,

notthecreativeprocess

It’s always the same, that stunned, irrational feeling that overwhelms me when I begin a new composition.

Now clearly, I love composing, because I keep going back for more, and I keep saying “yes” to choral commissions. And there are moments of pure synergy where I don’t even know where the notes come from, and how the words connect with their final sounds.

But the thought that reverberates in my head EVERY SINGLE TIME I start writing?

How did I ever do this?! How did I EVER write what came before this one?!

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What came before seems…extraordinary. Insurmountable. Unmatchable. Unfathomable. That SO MANY PLANETS lined up all at once for the sake of that particular choral composition. And I listen to my past compositions, head propped in my arms, with my stomach doing flips at my current commissions.

And I actually LOVE the creative process. I love the uncertainty, and I love getting down on my hands and knees, up to my elbows in notes and ideas, sounds and nuances, phrases and colourful snippets of harmony…I love playing in the puzzle pieces.

But the start is torturous, even for a realistic optimist like me.

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So this is how it goes. I sit at my piano, blank manuscript pad propped up on the music stand, in a fierce face-off. It’s a desolate wasteland. Nothing works. Every possible harmony or phrase I test out, I have already heard before. I’m surrounded by half chewed-up musical ideas, and metaphorical tumbleweed.

Then I play with words…sounds of words, lyrics, ideas put together in different combinations. It’s just as agonising.

Eventually, I conclude that I have just have to make a haphazard, totally rubbish start. I pull up a Word document, vomit every conceivable idea onto the page, and press save without a backward glance. I do the same with my ideas at the piano onto my phone, and the manuscript onto Sibelius.

I press save in the hope that, like good wine, it improves with time and being left alone in a dark place. Sadly, it never does. But my eyes + mind see different things, and my ears hear what I couldn’t hear previously.

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A tiny snippet of an idea arrives; a shy little phrase, an errant, unexpected harmony that I fall in love with.

Suddenly, I have a little row of seedling musical ideas, then I find myself in the middle of a garden of sounds, pruning + shaping entire pages of my composition, encouraging a particular phrase one way, cutting back one to its core in the next. I am engrossed. I don’t look up, and an hour passes easily. More and more notes fall into place, and I start to embody the personality of the piece, and choir who will be singing it. Nuances are being discovered, and shaped.

Then there is the day, some time later, when I stand up, dazed from the intense work, stretch my weary arms + shoulders, and find that I have a Piece of Music, a Brand New Composition…a Living Entity.

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I know every sound + word in that piece. I know its spirit.

I take a breath…because now, in all its perfect completeness, having it loved it so intimately + knowing its every colour…I have to let it go.

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It’s an extraordinary process.

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