Friday, 8 April 2011

Musical Questing

I'm midway through writing a piece of music and just wanted to stop and think a little about where I'm going with it. I'm an independent composer, disconnected from all established routes to composerdom, but I've learned that when I appear to be on my own and have discovered something personal or unique, there are always others who have been there before or who are on the same path. With that in mind, I can safely assume that it won't just be me who is interested in the quest I'm on.

The process seems to be like cooking. You can do it for others or for yourself hoping that others will enjoy the end result. You can use a recipe, a formula, but never quite know how it's going to turn out. Discovering what combinations work and what don't is a learning process. The music I'm cooking up is purely for my self; others may enjoy or dislike it but I really don't care about that.

I don't like formality in music making, although some is required otherwise anarchy might reign. I don't like fixing a piece of music once and for all. It should be more like a living creature that can grow and evolve, will present different moods at different times. I think that I'll always be writing the same piece of music. I like allowing an element of chance to be included. I like the idea of combining opposing forces to create a union or alliance.  I like dance rhythms and mystical otherworldliness. I like excitement and peace and making something that combines these elements.

All this represent something relatively new taking place in making music, namely the fact that compositional power is available to anyone without formal musical training via the the pc. Most musicians know about Sibelius.  I use a similar programme called, Finale. Without this, I simply couldn't do it, particularly as I have no piano keyboard skills. This means that such new music may now be driven increasingly by people like myself and not by the privileged and highly trained. My music is unlikely to find itself on a big stage and will be a local event, but if you imagine this multiplied the length and breadth of the country, there is certainly something interesting going on here, driven from the grass roots.

The music will last about an hour and is in several sections. Some are scored, some are improvised. Most of the improvisation is percussive. My idea is to combine hypnotic percussion (drums, cymbals, shakers) with more meditative forms, singing bowls and gongs. The scored sections are for string quartet plus bass to add solidity, all, hopefully, electric. A beauty of strings is that their harmonically rich sound can be used either with long flowing meditative lines or will work with a strong rhythmic element. A classic string quartet works surprisingly well with percussion. When the piece is performed, whoever is around can join in if they feel like it. There certainly won't be any audience sitting in rows.

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