Private Creative Process

I’ve read praise for composer-bloggers who share their struggles and rejections. It’s the inside story that people want to read. Readers won’t find much insight if all you write is self-promotion and self-praise.

It’s really tough for me, however, when I’m working on a project, to think of anything to write about. I don’t want to write about a work-in-progress that I’m not sure about yet. I don’t have creative bandwidth for writing about other topics either.

While I’m searching for the core of a piece — the right melodic elements and harmonies, or even the right text, I’m in a private phase of my creative process. I can’t describe ahead of time what the shape of the music will be because the search is what molds the material, and re-shapes it, and finally refines it into something I want to show performers and present to listeners. Usually, I don’t even have a name for the piece.

On Christmas Eve day, I put the final edits on “Walden at Evening”, a three-movement piece for solo horn, 2 percussion, and chorus, with words by Henry David Thoreau. I finally chose the name too. The music is for the August 2013 Symposium of the International Horn Society, which will be in Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

In the previous two weeks I finally shared the scores of the three movements with the commissioner and performers, calling them almost-final drafts. I always think that I will share the work-in-progress with performers, but I don’t feel like I have anything worth sharing until the piece is nearly complete.  The chorus director gave me some good feedback, and I made minor adjustments in vocal ranges. I went back to each movement for final revisions, especially of accompaniment harmonies. I finally decided I was done when the whole piece resonated for me.

After wondering, all through November, whether I had something worth offering, I’m finally very happy with the result. And I can rejoin the online community of friends and fellow musicians again.

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