…a new year of school, and with it, new lessons with Margaret Schedel. This is pretty consistent in my choice of teachers; I’ve always elected to study with composers whom I feel to have vastly different points of view on composing than I do. It feels like this practice could sometimes be doing things the hard way, but it’s worked for me in the past, and I’m hoping it’ll pay off this time as well.
Meg took a look at my string quartet thus far, minus the to-be-created electronic part, and had a couple helpful/pragmatic things to say, especially with the proposed electronics stuff. But the most interesting thing she said to me was that the quartet was, “…very straight.” She thinks that I’m holding back when it comes to bringing in some of the more out there-type stuff in composition.
It really got me thinking: I remember that, when I first started composing in college, I was really out there! I was into all sorts of cool shit back then. I’ve come to this conclusion before on this blog (of course I can’t find the link though; go fig…). And I’ve whined about this before on Twitter/Facebook, enough that it garnered all the cursory remarks of, “Do what’s in your heart, Jason!” And those, while making me feel better, do little to solve a problem that I need to solve by looking inward.
I feel as though I can’t get a sense of what my heart wants me to do. If people are right, and I am holding back, how can I trust myself to write what I really want to express? I need to come up with something to get my bearings.
To that end, Meg asked me, as a first assignment, to pick five adjectives that I would like someone like Kyle Gann to describe my music. I’ve been nearly consumed with this assignment for a couple of days now. I’m surprised at how much this exercise has focused me. Here are the words that I’ve come up with:
- Primal, or rather fundamental: I want my music to call to mind the deepest, most basic aspects of what it means to be human. I’m not interested, overall, in appealing to peoples’ intellects, or their “higher” sensibilities. I believe these basic aspects are what can bring all people together, regardless of where or when they come from.
- Bold: I want my music to stand out from the crowd, to offer something that is truly unique to me. No doubt, every composer wants this. I want there to be occasions where it is essential to program a piece by me, not just any old living composer.
- Moving: As I said before, I don’t really consider it a goal to appeal to peoples’ intellects. I don’t want people to hear my piece, and tell me, “Wow, that was…interesting.” I want people to feel things, and if possible, feel them as deeply as they can.
- Fervent: I want my music to be known for the intensity required to play it. This plays largely into the next term, below.
- Indomitable: When I was in drum corps, I remember the feeling of having to put all of my strength and will into a piece of music, because I had to play this piece to people fifty yards away, while running around as fast as I can, all while trying to stay coordinated with other people trying to do the same thing. In all my music, I want there to be a point where the piece challenges the will of the musicians, giving them a point where they must push their physical, emotional, and/or spiritual faculties to their limit. I don’t want to write difficult music for its own sake, but difficult music that invites the performer to push themselves with all their might.