October 30, 2011

How I Didn't Learn to Compose

I never wanted to be a composer. I ornamented tunes and slowly learned to improvise but just never had any desire to write music or even to attempt to replay tunes I came up with. Sometimes I experimented with recording my improvisation which did eventually help me remember snippets but it still didn’t seem I was writing music. Certainly I don’t feel the music rattling in my head the way poems do, demanding to be written before I can sleep at night. Music simply flows out my hands through the flute and into the air with no particular effort and no request that I keep going till they are done. Poems clack and bang about insisting I work them out before they let me go. So it didn’t seem as if there was any reason for me to be a composer. Even if the tunes I could recreate were slowly increasing. And the variety of improvisation was expanding and becoming more interesting to me. By the time I started playing the Ren Fest, I was beginning to suspect that there was more going on than I had guessed. Spending entire weekends working on my music has done amazing things to my composing. Nothing else ever caused me to actually write music the way the regular focus on my own improvisation did. All the theory classes, music writing exercises, jazz and Baroque improvisation turned out to be just prep work. After one or two years, recording a CD seemed natural. There was so much music pouring out of me that it was nearly impossible not to recognize and develop some but it still seemed a long way from composing. By the time the second CD came along I knew I was going to have to admit to composing music fairly soon. Where I am going with this creation or it with me, I still don’t really know but I do know that the music spins round my head now, not quite the way poems do but just as inescapably. And unlike poetry, there is no demand, no insistence that I do anything about it. The music doesn’t stop (or rather settle quietly) just because a tune has been worked out. Harmonies, melodies, variations, dances and laments overlapping and separating, sometimes one at a time and at others dozens competing for an audience. All exist with me or without. But oh, I am so glad they have come to live in my head.

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