Writing and playing music is what I live for but there’s no doubt that composing can be a difficult and frustrating process at times. However I have come to understand that that is a part of it, the sense of frustration and feeling temporarily blocked. I’m sure that sometimes for most artists the ideas flow and things come together in an organic and inspired way. A lot of the time though, and this is certainly the case for me, it is hard work.
Usually the way I write music is I start with a seed idea. It may be a piece of guitar music, an idea I’ve come across while just playing or practicing, or something I’ve ‘heard’ in my own mind in a moment of inspiration. The last one is the best because the idea comes straight out of the unconscious but it can be difficult as well to translate those ideas into actual music. No doubt many classically trained composers are used to that but it can be hard to get the manifest version to sound like the original. Anyway, the next thing is to develop that seed idea, to flesh it out. Then I usually do a rough recording of it. The next part can take a lot of time where I explore melodies, sounds and other ideas in order to make a whole piece of music out of it. That’s when I usually find it the most challenging. I spend a lot of time sifting through possible ideas and I throw out everything that doesn’t work; that’s the only way to make it into something I am happy with and can really stand over. Then comes the lengthy process of doing a ‘short score’ to develop the arrangement and/or orchestration, followed by the final recording.
I was working on something recently which was based on a classical guitar piece I had written. I wanted to make it into a multi-instrumental piece which involved adding to an already fairly complex musical idea in order to develop it. That can be tricky because I wanted to do something to really compliment it and not to detract from or confuse the original piece. And because all my music is instrumental, I couldn’t rely on vocals to give it shape and focus so the melodies and so on that I came up with had to be really strong. It took a while but I did get there in the end and the piece ended up on my latest album!
I always keep going even if I struggle at times because I know that with all creative work, at some stage the process involves hitting a wall, not knowing where to go next. The thing to do then is to push it for a while and then to stop and let go. At that stage we hand it over to the unconscious and that is where the ‘magic’ happens. Sooner or later, if we’re patient enough, there will be an ‘aha’ moment and the next idea will present itself, a bit like when we suddenly remember something we had forgotten a little after we stop trying (hard) to remember it. That’s how it always works but it can be difficult to trust the unconscious to come up with the goods when we are feeling un-inspired and stuck and inclined to give up. That is the very time not to and to just wait for the ‘daimon’ of creativity to do its work.
I am still learning to trust that but at least I know what to expect.
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