Composing by Opening Up

I am currently experimenting with writing some electronic music for a project and it is terrifying me.

This particular project is a re-scoring of an old silent film. The group I am working with split the film into 7 sections and is asking 7 composers to write music for it. So the people we have asked to collaborate are people with proven track records of interesting music writing.

And then there is me. I have taken the most basic levels of electronic music classes (the ones in which they teach you what reverb means) and no composition classes. But still I think I have an idea for the composition which I could create.

BUT at the same time, I keep running into thoughts of inadequacy or inability.

Where are these ideas coming from? Are they coming from a lack of formal training? Are they coming from a lack of confidence in my own taste?

But I have to keep reminding myself to clear those thoughts away. I have to work constantly to free my mind of expectation. Because that is the kind of composition that I want to create: one that happened not because I forced something out of the ether but because I opened myself up to what the process produced.

Furthermore, is playing music (which I do fairly regularly) so dissimilar from composing? When I play Mozart I am obviously given the notes and the rhythms and a few dynamic markings. But these are just black lines on a page.

What is interesting about a performance is what the performer brings to the piece that makes it different from the last time it was played. Surely we have all heard performances of just notes and rhythms and fell asleep promptly on the repeat of the exposition.

Is “interpretation” not a creative act? Is it not an act of composition? Is it not an opening up to the possibility of the piece rather than forcing some specific experience out of it?

When I go backpacking, I don’t go hoping for some specific experience. I have hiked with some people who approached it that way and they all hate backpacking to this day.

I have also gone to performances with people who expected something specific to happen who were inevitably underwhelmed by the event that unfolded.

Any listener who goes into a performance with a preconceived expectation of it is bound to have, at best, a mediocre experience.

So knowing this, why do I feel so self-conscious of my writing? Maybe it is because, despite by logical brain, I can’t get the listener off my shoulder. In which case I have to remind myself that not everyone will like what they hear. And that I should write for those who come in with an open mind, not those who come to be critical of starving artists.

Maybe the more important question is, will  like what I create? Which is a harder one. And in that case, I must be resolved to not give up until I am happy with it and also to keep an open mind about the outcome.

Because whatever I do in life, I just have to remind myself that if it makes me happy, then it is worth doing. And if it makes some other people happy too, that would be an added benefit.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. aubreyleaman says:

    I love this! I can definitely relate to feeling insecure about what you create. I’m working on a compositional project right now, too, and I’ve been having to tell myself the same things. I have a musical background, but not a strictly compositional one. It’s terrifying in ways!

    Liked by 1 person

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