When the pieces fall down…

Jenga
By Jose Hernandez on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

…sometimes I just don’t feel like picking them up. Not yet. The flute piece that I intended to write did not at all happen the way that I had planned, unfortunately. Aside from failing to guard my time to write (i.e. not getting up early enough to counter the other things I had to do), I could not seem to settle on any ideas long enough and move forth enough to truly develop a piece. I have been quite indecisive about the plans for my pieces in the past, but I usually settle on something. This time was the worst yet. After brainstorming, and outlining, and outlining again, none of it seemed right. I didn’t completely trash the ideas, but they often seemed as if they would be better orchestrated differently. With one sketch it seemed impossible to hear it in my head without an orchestra behind it; with others, I could envision them better with some type of accompaniment in a chamber setting.

The latter especially gives me some encouragement–I’m going to write a chamber piece soon, most likely with flute involved (hopefully a bass flute if I can get a hold of one), and now I have some ideas to draw from. Some of the new extended techniques I found are especially inspiring and will fit well with the aesthetic of this upcoming work.

In spite of feeling quite frustrated at the moment, I must say that there are a few positives. I’ve learned (and verified) some things about my writing style and process that could use some improvement:

  • I noticed that I tend to write in very short phrases, especially at the openings of pieces. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it can seem to stagnate the development of some pieces. It’s also becomes redundant when viewing my works as a whole.
  • I am a VERY slow composer. I’ve tried to deny this sooooooooo  many times, but now I must admit that it is true. I obsess over notes, I keep changing decisions, and I procrastinate. These are my three biggest enemies.
  • I simply need to let go. I need to take some falls more often. Over, and over, and over, and over and over again. Make the band-aids a fashion statement. (As I’m trying to be metaphorical, it just popped up in my head that the last time I took a big fall, this happened. Then I painted my toenails to match my cast. But I’m going to stick with my point anyway.)

I don’t have complete plan for how to fix it all yet, but awareness is always a start. For my snail-paced writing, I do have a bit of a strategy. Back in high school, one of my friends and I used to have little speed-composing “competitions” in which we would meet up on instant messaging, set parameters for a composition (i.e. a duet for two violins written within an hour), and then proceed to write. Then we would trade files and comment on each other’s work. Once he put the midi files up on a site for other friends to vote on their favorite one. A bit silly in some ways, but it did help. A bit of rivalry always serves as inspiration.

Although I don’t plan to do that in the same way again, I do think I could grow by competing with myself. Set a time limit for composing for a prompt, write something quick, post it. Something like that.

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2 thoughts on “When the pieces fall down…

  1. Haha, I really like the idea of speed-composing competitions. My friend and I actually do something like that, except not so speedy (usually a week or so, and we don’t usually try to finish pieces, just get like a B section or B section material, or like a coda).

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    1. Yeah, in those competitions we didn’t usually get very far. The results were usually something like 16 bars worth of music at a moderate tempo, in a really rough draft. They were fun though.

      Sakari

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