Usually, the start of every summer is filled with many of my ambitions: I’m going to write bazillion pieces, practice umpteen hours a day, read a multitude of books, etc, etc. Quite frankly: it never happens. Or it marginally makes the cut. As I realized lately that I have less than six weeks of summer break left, I must admit–I am in a little bit of a panic. I had set out to get so much done musically, particularly because of my experience in preparation for the Composition Studio Recital in the spring, and at the moment, I only have bits and pieces of ideas all over the place. Long story short: the performance itself–not even the dress rehearsal–was the first time that all six performers, the conductor, and I had been in the same room at the same time. That nerve-racking, nail-biting experience happened in part due to everyone’s jam-packed schedules and family emergencies, but thank God, I had pretty great musicians and the performance still went well. This left me thinking that it would be best to compose several works during the summer and work on them to the point that they only needed finishing touches. Then, I could rehearse freshly-written pieces during the entirety of the semester in preparation for the recital, yet have the flexibility and freedom to work on something new.
I won’t beat up on myself too much however, even though I realize that my recent procrastination is from a tiny bit of (intentional) neglect. After I finished the school year at the end of May, I quickly realized that I was quite exhausted after my responsibilities in the production/community service course entitled Theatre for Social Change, in which I composed original music for the play Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen by Kathryn Walat. (See the “My Music” page for audio excerpts). I’ve been in several theatre productions, all of them requiring me to be musically involved in one way or another, so I do realize the countless number of hours that go into a show. For Victoria Martin, these same hours were crammed into a month’s timeline, on top of the schoolwork that went with the classroom portion of the course. Victoria Martin was the first experience that pressed me to compose at such a speed and truly have to be accountable for my work. (Back in the day, I used to have one-hour online composition “competitions” with a friend, in which we would exchange music at the end of each round and sometimes have other friends vote on audio files, but of course, there’s no true penalty for losing/forfeiting that type of challenge except for pride).
For the past few years, I have made a habit of taking several weeks worth of a break immediately at the end of the school year, in which I neither practice nor do much composing (unless an idea hits me over the head and I can’t quite help myself, or I have gigs coming up). Yes, I do get a bit “rusty” in the practicing aspect, but it goes away after a few days of diligence, and I never have felt the need to stop composing or practicing music altogether, so I don’t worry about it much. Although it may not be beneficial in the cram-as-much-improvement-in-the-shortest-amount-of-time-possible view of life that many musicians seem to have (not a bad thing I suppose), it does allow me to get bored enough so that I can regain a will to take control of what I want to learn musically. It’s similar to the effect you might get in your English (or other language) class: having someone mandate what to read tends to tire you out, even though you may not dislike reading. In this situation, I am the type of person to simply wait until holidays/vacations to go back to books I like to explore. I treat my music studies in the same way, especially when it comes to practicing. (I have more freedom with composing, so that’s not usually an issue.)
With that said, I definitely need to get to work.