Sunday, May 26, 2013

Creative Process Stuff

I feel the love of God most strongly when I am composing.Maybe even--*only* when I am composing.
Oh, but. God. How taxing it can sometimes be.

So there's this choral piece I started way, way, way, back a long time ago. I started it the night before I left on my mission. So that's been a few months over 11 years ago. It's an SATB setting of Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I think this is a pretty well-known poem, and I've even seen a few choral settings of it in the last few years. Of course, I look away. I can't actually bring myself to look at them, because then the comparison starts and well we all know how that shi# ends. It always ends with me in the trash for, I don't know, MONTHS.

Anyway, I've had a devil of a time trying to finish this piece,what with the intervening mission of insanity, depression, realization that it was, in fact, depression, type 1 diagnosis, all of that weird shiz where I thought I should be a choral conductor (wha...?). Anyway, and then I met this brilliant man who loves me and helps me remember a little about who and why I am, and so here I am composing again. Through all of those years, I never let that piece go. I worked most on it during my BYU piano degree. Yeah, when I was supposed to be practicing, I was composing. (How did this not tip you off, self?) And I think I came up with some good things. It all seemed to hold together, the bits I started before the mission of insanity, the bits I worked on when I got back and through the years. I'd always envisioned the structure as essentially ABA, with both As in fact being in the key of A major, and B being tonally unstable and developmental. I got it to the return of A and imagined that the return would state the melodic material of A in three-part canon. And that's where I stopped because that seemed hard. And I didn't have any notation software, and I wouldn't know how to work it if I did, and I didn't really have time, as a piano major with depression who worked at the MTC, to even begin to figure that stuff out, and forget about time, I was so insecure in my identity as a musician at all, let alone a composer, a creator. There were just too many obstacles at the time.

Now, having finished my choral degree, and with an employed lawyer of a husband essentially supporting my rehab post BYU, I rallied with vigor to give it a double bar. I gave myself a deadline to get a copy to Brady Allred, whose choral organization I joined up with when we moved to Salt Lake. So, yeah I did that. I went all--three-part canon in the sopranos, supported by full divisi ATB, we're talking 10 separate parts, it goes nuts for a while, then it winds down, little key change out of nowhere, a few winding down sustained chords, and it ends in the key of Bb.

Yeah, it totally didn't work at all. The beginning was one piece, and by the end, it was a totally different piece. My super-connected friend who is a brilliant musician and composer, told me recently to send him some stuff to send to a Danish conductor, so I pulled out my 11-year-old disaster with potential, thinking, ok, I'll just revise it, get it worked up right and send it off. And what I've realized tonight trying, AGAIN to give this piece some closure, is that I really need to rediscover the spirit that started the thing. The first 2/3 of this piece is so extraordinarily simple, and clear, it's like it fell straight out of the sky. I keep trying to come up with new ideas to round this piece off, but I think what I need to do is really study what I already have. Like  I need to do a formal analysis of the stuff that's good. And harmonic analysis. And write the ending with the same spirit of simplicity, ease, grace... I've been trying too hard, these many years. It began it's life as melodic material, all of it, even when there's thick harmony. And in the intervening years I've focused so much on harmony--interesting modulations and thick, fat sounds. I need to lean it out.

Lean it out. Simple. Melody.

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