Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A change in the weather - in surround sound

For those who don’t live in Melbourne, we have been having a rather warm week.  Hot days, hot airless nights, grumpy children, grumpy naked children, grumpy not-asleep children and grumpy parents.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I find it hard to work in the heat and we have so far done without air-con.  I’ve been knuckling down today with an upright fan, lots of water to drink and minimal clothing… trying to keep the work going and not doing too badly.  Having done a morning’s worth of work I sat on the back step of our house and spent some time listening to the unfolding drama of the weather; lots of rumbling in the distance, panning from one side of the northern sky to the other. It was lovely to just sit and listen to the whole thing in amazing surround sound; low thudderings taking shape, moving and changing as they shift from west to east or east to west.  The gradual picking up of the wind as the change starts to come through, the leaves registering the moving air and then the birds getting excited at the prospect of a break from the heat and some waited for rain.  I could have sat out there for much longer, just listening and being in the midst of it all and experiencing the shear scope and scale of the sound and its aliveness and character and transformation through time.   But the desk calls, the piece needs me to write it while the ideas are there and the cool change is on its way.  

Monday, February 1, 2010


"I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!"

My children are obsessed with The Sound of Music.  I am also obsessed with the sound of music but not so much the Julie Andrews / Rogers and Hammerstein version.  More the sound of sound as it relates to music, and how to make music with sound, and how to arrange the sound of music so that it makes sense to me and doesn’t sound too much like the sound of anyone else’s music.  Which brings me back to the very beginning – in this case the quote from The Sound of Music (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II).

I’ve been working on a new piece for a couple of weeks now (by weeks I mean two days in each of those weeks) and generally speaking it is going really well.  Ideas are flowing, notes are being written down and whole sections of the piece are emerging. There is no shortage of material, there are sheets of manuscript paper everywhere and it certainly gives the outward impression of a composer hard at work – which is the case.  But now I am getting to the stage where I need to refine and condense and structure all this material into a coherent piece of music.  This is usually one of my favourite parts of the compositional process but doubt has started to creep in.  Will this really work?  Will anyone want to perform it? Will anyone want to listen to it?  Is it going to be a ‘good’ piece? In short, I need to have more confidence in me.

I’m not sure whether I ever really thought about confidence as such an important part of the creative process before.  Of course you have to be confident in how you promote your work and how you project yourself to other people when it comes to getting work performed or commissioned.  Not that I’ve ever been that good at brimming with confidence in the cause of self promotion, but I know it is important.  But when I’m here alone at my desk, just writing and dealing with ideas, confidence is actually really crucial.  If I start listening to that voice of self-doubt I will lose my nerve, I will lose my focus and end up not writing the piece I want to write – or most importantly, the piece I know I can write.