Friday, January 15, 2010
listening and thinking #1
Am about to start writing a new piece of music - for violin and piano - hoping to start it on Monday (creche day!). For me, the pre-compositional process has various stages: thinking about concepts and ideas (not necessarily sonic ones) and researching and writing about these ideas; and then the listening - another kind of research. So I've been listening to various things, trying to get a taste for the sound world I want to work in, different colours, textures, ways of thinking about time and space in the music. Already I am reading this and thinking what a mixed bag of metaphors it is - taste and colour and space and time. But that is how it works for me - I often think about sound in terms of taste or feel or space as well as sound. Not as clear as a synaesthetic sense of sound but more the way the senses can overlap when you are trying to define or articulate a particular quality or essence. As I write this I am listening to music by Galina Ustvolskaya, a remarkable Russian composer to whose music I feel very drawn for its extreme and uncompromising quality. I love her music for its force and clarity and even sometimes for its violence - it is far from 'easy listening'. I love that it is difficult, that she was 'difficult' - not in a Stockhausen kind of way but because what she had to say was difficult and different. And the other reason I love her music is that it is often about the 'essence' of something, distilled and expressed in a simple but powerful way. Definitely something I aspire to in my music. As I have been listening, casting a wide net and listening to a range of music, it is very clear to me what I DONT want to write or hear. I don't want clutter or hyperbole or expansive extravagance or pointless turmoil. I remember reading something that Liza Lim said about her work many years ago and it has always rung true to me - that she writes the kind of music that she wants/needs to listen to (sorry for the paraphrasing, Liza). This is not just about being your music's first audience or implying that composing is a form or sonic narcissism. I create things because I want them to be in the world, because I want to hear them and I want other people to hear them. So, a bit more listening and thinking and soon, some writing of notes and making of sounds. And hopefully someone, apart from me, will get to listen to them eventually.