I'm sitting here listening to a piece I orchestrated and recorded yesterday. You'll be able to hear it soon over there to the right on my Reverb Nation player. It's not quite finished yet. It's nothing new. I remember writing it when I was maybe 14 or so. At that time, in Las Vegas, there was this local New Age composer named Giovanni, and he had a weekly show on PBS or something. They would play his music with really cheesy green screen videos. He'd be playing a clear piano with color swirls happening all around him -- like old Windows screen savers.

At the time, I was really into New Age music. Well, that sounds funny. New Age is such a broad musical term. I was into instrumental music, mostly based around the piano. Personally, I think of them as modern compositions with a pop music bias-- in that they have sort of a pop structure with no vocals. There are "hooks" and repeating "choruses." I was mostly into Giovanni and John Tesh at the time, but eventually discovered Jim Brickman, and then stopped listening to that type of music alot.

I discovered "sequencing" back then, too, and would stay up till really late at night "orchestrating" little tunes I would write. I learned alot about how music is put together. My old Korg O1W/fd doesn't work anymore, so I've lost all access I had to those pieces. I'd love to hear them now to see how I've grown (or haven't).

Now, almost 15 years later, I find myself doing the same thing. This time, though, I'm hoping to make a career out of it. Last night was so surreal, as I took a piece I wrote, barely out of Jr. High, and fashioned it into a somewhat mature musical offering.

I've been recently going back to all the instrumental stuff I wrote way back when I was younger, because there's something so pure about it all. Every tune was a revelation. I'd sit down and just start playing, and discover a new chord or progression or something, and it would inspire this piece to take shape. Then, I'd play my little pieces for myself. Over and over I'd play them, rarely sharing them with anyone, always dreaming I'd record them some day, or play them in my own show. I would stay up late recording them, usually giving the prettier melodies to the oboe, because that's a good instrument for pretty melodies.

I miss the discovery of that time. I miss the output of that time. I write less now. I don't know why. I hate feeling like I'm creatively dry. I know I'm not. I'm actually a better musician now. I mean, technically, I could sit down today and probably improvise as well as I used to compose, which means I should be able to compose even better. It just takes more work and more thought now. I welcome that. There's something very satisfying in hearing melodies and chords that I've put together, even if no one else cares for it.

My dream has always been to be a composer. I'm not sure why. It's not like I walk around with melodies swirling around in my head all the time. I think inspiration is real, and I love when I'm struck with it. I also think that the craft of composition is very important, and I actually love the technical side of it. I think Brahms once said that the key to a great piece of music (one that stands the test of time) is both inspiration and craft. It's one thing to be inspired and just vomit a bunch of music onto a page (or recording software), but that could end up just being an emotional blob that is cool for a little while but can't survive (i.e., most pop music). The other side of that is a well-crafted piece that is only well-crafted. There's tons of music that is long-forgotten because it follows all the rules but is not inspired. Lots of composers were hired by royalty to compose music weekly (or daily) for whatever reason, and you can't expect completely inspired music to come from that type of schedule.

My conclusion is this: I'm scared. I want to write music that is not just "adding to the noise" as Switchfoot once sang about. I'm worried that the feeling of discovery was in my teen years, and there's no more inspiration to be found. I'm nervous that I don't have the commercial appeal to make a living at this. I'm scared that I won't want to be as vulnerable and open as an artist has to be. Well, at least I've got the insecurities every artist has to deal with. I think I'm on the right track.

1 comment:

Jan said...

I'd like to fix that old Korg just enough to get those melodies off of it! You are precious to me!