Friday, October 05, 2012

love of music means having some life without it

Now if this were the only post you read you might mistakenly think that I write about Hilary Hahn more than I actually do.  In an interview she once mentioned that she does other things besides playing the violin and has other interests.  After all, if she became injured and couldn't play or got to a point where she could never play music again she'd want some kind of life not interwoven with music so that she'd have, you know, a life. 

Now I'm hardly a musician of her caliber but I see her point.  For composers of music you might think we listen to Beethoven a ton and try to find that mystical feely-touchy groove where music inspires us to make music.  Yeah ... well ... no.  I've often had my biggest moments of inspiration in a quiet room with pencil and paper scribbling out a chart in which I am seeing how many things I can do with a sequence of notes before I find one that sounds interesting.  You read that correctly.  I might start off by playing a riff on my guitar, or a few chords on the keyboard, and I might sing a melody or two to myself at first, but a lot of a composition can end up being worked out on paper. 

If you're serious about this business of creating music then thinking through musical possibilities on paper and putting those sounds together in your head can get more done than hours at a keyboard or hours on a guitar.  When I began to write what became 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar the vast majority of the most difficult but important work I did was just with pencil and paper away from any instruments, sometimes during breaks at the day job, sometimes during unexpected and unwanted hours where I couldn't get anything done at my real day job because the server or network crashed and the IT people didn't know when it was going to get fixed but I needed to be around in case things got fixed.  Yeah, like that.  Well, it was often in those kinds of moments I might work out entirely on paper and thinking through the options, what might become a prelude and fugue in A major or something like it.

That's to tell you that even for musicians important stretches of life, even important moments in life writing music, do not involve controlled vibrations of air.

The German emigre composer Paul Hindemith complained about how American culture saturates a person with hours of unwanted music in A Composer's World back in the 1950s. His complaint was that this ubiquitous use of music would drain any power or significance from our musical experiences.  He also complained that all the American educational system seemed able to do was produce music teachers who would, in turn, produce the next generation of music teachers and that every American kid seemed to be taught music in a way tha tacitly suggested "YOU could become the next Beethoven."  But Hindemith is not the topic of this blog post. 

Instead the topic of this blog post is to piggyback on a post at Internet Monk.

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