Upon rereading and reflecting on James Sharp’s entry in the U of R Composition Studio Blog, “Balancing the Professional and the Academic,” I have finally realized one of my major obstacles to composing a work to its completion. I often write out every note that comes to me, thinking that it will solidify my ideas. Then, when I return to these fragments, I can’t seem to put the puzzle pieces back together in my head. I have grand ideas that are quickly forgotten. Ironically, my intention behind scribbling down the musical material itself is that I don’t want to forget what was playing in my head, nor do I want to hear it again, knowing that it is significantly altered in some way, but forgetting the original inspiration and thinking that the original idea was better. It’s like trying to write an essay, but racing to the paper to write down the first sentence because it actually came to you this time, only to realize that you really don’t have an outline. In doing this, I preserve the “monomers” of musical material at the stake of allowing the larger ideas to vanish. I forfeit texture, contour, gesture, dynamics, structure, development, color, and other vital elements of the music that make it cohesive. We’ve talked about it in the studio many times, but it’s true–as composers, we spend way too much time grappling over our little notes when it’s the big picture that matters most.
Now is the perfect time for me to start working with this ideology. Last night, I once again became inspired by the instrumentation of Oak, thinking that I haven’t quite explored all of the possibilities of this oddly “woody” ensemble. As usual, my first impulse was to take to the manuscript paper and hurriedly write motifs and melodies down. And I did. This time, however, I made sure that I wrote only a minimal amount of notation down (enough to regenerate the musical lines in my head). Instead, I wrote words: simple, but feasible descriptions of the big picture.
I have a feeling that this will work wonderfully.