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Saturday, December 26, 2009

on a related subject...

Emerging from the fog - Composing and Motherhood 
I wrote this article for the online music journal of the Australian Music Centre.  On a similar theme to an earlier post here but for a more specific audience.  Although I was initially a bit ambivalent about writing the piece (even though it was my idea) I am glad I did.  It is certainly a perspective that could do with a bit more airing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

more than a momentary pleasure

A couple of months ago an email arrived in my inbox with the subject "call for scores: momentary pleasures" - enough to make me curious.  This was an open invitation for composers to write a piece of music for piano solo, of up to four minutes in length, in any style - the only stipulation being that the piece had to be composed within a single day. The whole idea seemed perfect - a single day is about all I can devote to composing at the moment.  I filed the details away for when 'the day' became available, and Monday was the day.  Writing a whole piece in a day was a fantastic discipline.  I had to think through a lot of ideas ahead of time, work out my plan of attack, get myself in the right frame of mind, drop the kids off at creche, rush home and START WRITING.  And I did it.  I wrote a five minute piece that I had to edit down. The ideas were there, things felt a bit rusty at first but I applied myself to the task at hand, working with an intense focus and discipline that I had forgotten I was capable of.  At the end of the day I was fairly exhausted but the sense of achievement was fantastic and I think I have written something good.  So, for anyone who is feeling apprehensive about launching back into work, I can recommend this approach.  It was great having the external directive to 'write a piece in a day' - another version of the deadline as inspiration/motivation - but the other option is to just do it.  Whether or not the piece I wrote is selected for performance is in a way irrelevant.  The task gave me the jump start I needed to get back into writing properly, to finish the piece, to regain some confidence and remember that amazing feeling when you finish a piece of work that you feel proud of.  It was also a chance to draw together some of the strands of thought that have been preoccupying me of late - ideas about space and silence and simplicity and also something about the depth of feeling for my children.  And it may seem strange but in my twenty years of composing music, I have never dedicated a piece to anyone - until this piece.  Here is the title and the brief program note required for the submission of pieces:

a million moments
for Eleanor and Freya


Composing is a pleasure I have had little time for since the birth of my children.  I have given my time to them with love, while carrying ideas of music around in my head, ready for the time when I could write them into pieces.  This is one of them.  A whole day to write seems a luxury when once I may have squandered many days writing in circles.  A focussed mind and necessity are the mother of invention, and for this I thank my children.  A momentary pleasure is easily eclipsed by a million moments of love.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

my progress so far

or Acts of Creative Desperation
or Desperate Acts of Creativity
or Creative Acts of Desperation

Today I made curtains.
I've been thinking about music and listening to music and last week I even wrote some music.  But this week things are just not happening.  A 'training day' at our creche has conspired against me and my day of time and space disappeared.  I was having a look through a blog called Studio Mothers and came across a post called '5 ways to be a writer when you're not writing' which certainly struck a chord.  I'm not overly interested in cooking but some of the analogies were quite apt - there is a lot of simmering and preparing the pot.  Rather than feeling frustrated at the slowness of my progress, I know there are things simmering away and when I lift the lid on them some time soon, I hope I am pleasantly surprised.  I also agree with the importance of engaging in "cultural activity" to get ideas moving.  I often have 'light-bulb' moments while listening to someone else's music or looking at a painting.  Of course I would love to be gadding off to art galleries and performances and all manner of things although it's not so easy at the moment.  But I have made a point of planning ahead to put a few interesting things on the calendar and then to actually go and see / hear them.  So things are moving along, slowly, my plan is falling into place, gradually.  But today I made curtains and totally enjoyed it.  I love making things and making curtains fed the urge to create something, even if it wasn't music.  And you can make curtains in the midst of domestic chaos while talking to two small children and interruptions to bring in washing / make tea / bathe children don't actually make any difference to the final product.  I don't know if curtain making can be classed as 'engaging in cultural activity' but sometimes creating something is better than creating nothing and desperate times call for desperate measures.