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.


  1. enjoy the process. that is the in between, the journey...the love of it really. as soon as i finish something, i can always find ways to improve it or am looking to the next.