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.

some pictures

I had some time so I spent it taking photos and playing with them in photoshop...

and remembered why I used to like taking photographs of things rather than people...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

creativity on holiday

Ah summer... I wish that I could show pictures of a lovely holiday somewhere or at least describe some interesting outings.  Really, there's not much going on apart from a bit of moderate New Year sorting and tidying (very short-lived) and some catching up with friends.  There is something about this time of year that makes everything slow down.  It is possibly the heat and with a forecast of 43 degrees C tomorrow (that's 109 F for any readers in the USA) I should say definitely the heat.  I have long had a theory that intellectual/creative activity is harder in a warm climate.  I lived in Scotland for over 5 years and I was very productive - did a Masters and a PhD and worked part-time for an orchestra.  Since moving back to Australia things have definitely slowed down but there were contributing factors... a full-time lecturing job, then babies.  But even so, I do find it very difficult to get motivated after a run of hot days and nights.  Clearly so do a lot of other people so I wont feel too bad. This Saturday's AGE (Melbourne's broadsheet newspaper) was really terrible. I know it's summer, there's nothing happening in the world (apparently) but the writing was pitiful.  Front page about nothing.  Features about nothing.  Opinion pieces about nothing by people with nothing to say.  Which I can understand, given that we're all in summer-creativity-shut-down-mode (apparently) but why bother filling the paper with drivel about kittens and the Y-gen? Oh well, hopefully it will pass.  Meanwhile, I'll just sit it out, under the ceiling fan with a cold drink and then re-engage my brain in about a week when the kids are back at creche and hopefully the temperature will stay under 35.

Friday, January 1, 2010

start as you mean to continue

Nothing like starting the New Year on the back foot. The house is a tip.  The children are sleep deprived (as are their parents).  The garden is overgrown.  No New Year's resolutions have been made.  I am quite happily eschewing New Year's Resolutions as, in my opinion, they only lead to disappointment and self-criticism.  I am not making a resolution to get up every day at 5am to work.  I am not writing lists of things I want to achieve in 2010.  I am not creating positive-affirmation-mantra-type things to contemplate every morning at 5am.  Once I have caught up on some sleep, got the house into some sort of order (with the assistance of its other residents) and cut the grass, I shall endeavour to pick up where I left off in 2009.  I shall continue to create space for creating: music, words, things.  I shall avoid giving myself a hard time if I am not always able to create as much space as I would like.  I shall also continue to remind myself how fortunate I am to have at least some space and time in which to create, and people I love to share it with me, and that we are all blessed with good health and a roof over our heads.  Bring it on 2010.