Saturday, October 27, 2007

Less Than The Paper It Isn't Written On


Composer Daniel Wolf, whose blog Renewable Music survived the recent cut of my blog reading list, has broached the idea of writing a daily series of short pieces of music for posting online. He asked if anyone objected.

My initial impetus for Mixed Meters was to create a place to post my own short pieces. So, even though I present my pieces as audio files while Daniel would give us pdf scores, I've got opinions on the subject. To read everything he had to say plus all the comments (including mine) click here.

My quoted comments begin after the picture.

metal furniture in front of brick wall (c)David Ocker
I say "whatever turns you on, Daniel." Writing a large number of short pieces can be a very good thing - something I've learned directly from my own experience.

In my opinion, however, your plan is already lumbered with a forest of precomposition. Why do you have to decide ahead of time to write "one piece per day for a month"? Why not two pieces on average per week until, I don't know, you tire of the formula or think of a better one?

And (also in my opinion) your pre-chosen title is overly pedagogical. I don't know who is having these "assorted musical problems" of which you speak, but they also could be writing a passel of short pieces.

My suggestion to you (which of course is worth less than the paper it isn't written on) would be "write a short piece in the next day or two. If you enjoy doing that, write another one pretty soon afterwards. Repeat."

The quote from Lou (or is it from Virgil) seems right to me depending on the exact meaning of regular appointments. I would prefer to base them on social periodicities rather than astronomical ones.

When you've finished a "bunch" of pieces, you might review them as a group. Maybe you'll notice similarities which you wish to avoid in future short pieces. Or maybe those very similarities will inspire you to some new intensity of composition.

Trying to create an exhaustive compendium of styles or solutions is going to make writing the last piece of your "book of etudes" excruciatingly difficult. I would suggest approaching each new piece with the same open mind and blank paper. Or with both blank mind and paper.

Creating an online library of new pieces unmediated by "traditional publishing institutions" seems like a fine idea. Good luck getting the people to browse the stacks.

Having written a half dozen paragraphs for your blog, maybe I should plunder them as filler for for my own. My own little bits of composing time have been drained by a 25 minute five movement behemoth. When I finally am happy with the sound of that beast ("real soon now") I fully intend to return to writing short pieces. They're easy and fun. And no one ever need know about the failures.

brick building facade with light fixture shadow (c)David Ocker

I believe there is absolutely NO reason for anyone to compose music unless they have a good time doing it because there are already so many composers cranking out so much music (not to mention all those classics and oldies haunting us from the past). Forcing oneself to compose for anything but the simple joyous experience of making the air vibrate seems simply irresponsible to me.

I once heard Frank Zappa say he wrote music because he liked to stick it in his ear. I've always assumed that means pretty much the same thing I'm trying to say here.

Paper Tags: . . . . . . . . .

1 comment :

Mark Gresham said...

One could indeed write a short composition per day and out-proliferate Bohuslav Martinu in terms of total "short works"--but how short? Martinu's piano solo "Par T.S.F." ("On Radio Waves") is all of 45 seconds, not his only one that short, but he didn't write one a day either.

It would be more interesting to write a program which generates a new and different short work every day (but audio only, not a score, please!) for perusal. Let it be a ring-tone sent to your cell phone, so you don't have to listen to that same damned Nokia tune over and over, and wonder whether it's your phone of one belonging to a handful of people standing nearby with the same default ringtone. That way, if you don't recognize the music (and it's not some chirpy little canned jingle that you'd like to briskly bludgeon to death with a sledgehammer) it must be your own phone.

--Mark Gresham