St. Paul on Composing

“I want to sing with my spirit and with my mind as well”
– 1 Corinthians, 14:15

paul-mosaic-ravenna-275x272x72OK, so Paul was writing about liturgy, not composition.* But the equilibrium he seeks is one for which I strive as a composer. I’ve sat through too many new pieces that favored one element and neglected the other. The sweet spot is going to vary for different pieces, different composers. But some kind of balance we must seek.

*) Of course, it is good advice about liturgy as well, and not always followed, in my experience.

Desert Island Composing

Go here for Wondermark’s take on what it means to create a truly original body of compositional work. It makes me think of two things: first, the principle I was told by an older musician when playing playing weddings and bowling banquets 40 years ago – “The band always eats”; the second, one of my stock responses when asked what inspires me as a composer – “the commission check”. Making art and the mundane – well, sometimes the mundane looms larger than you might think.

Piano Progress

Not a lot of blogging lately, as I am concentrating on two composition projects – the piece for the consortium of pianists I wrote about here; and a set of songs on texts by Susan Stewart. The piano piece is due first, so it has been occupying more of my attention. It is looking like a set of preludes rather than a short sonata or a single movement. I have accumulated a lot of material since starting the set, just bits of things: different kinds of pianistic texture, chord progressions, melodic fragments. The problem has been to select and build them into pieces. Which fragments belong together? Which ones do I need to let go of, perhaps save for another piece? Here’s the possible beginning of one of the movements (editing obviously incomplete, even the spelling of the chords!!):

But there are, as the poet says, miles to go before I sleep…