Always searching for that one note…

With a few final keystrokes on Sunday night, it was good to clear some projects off my composition desk. Several pieces were pushing towards deadlines (proud to say not past), so it was a welcome relief. Notes were found. Put in appropriate places. Transposed. Articulated. And now all that is left is for another band to breathe life into the paper.

Today I am absolutely terrified. Not in the “that-police-car-just-turned-into-a-giant-robot-with-a-gun” kind of way, but terrified about finding more notes. New notes. Different notes. The search begins anew today as I begin the creative process all over again. People often ask where the inspiration, the ideas come from, and sometimes I can only tell them “I don’t know, but I am glad it does.” But when I begin again, will people be expecting the new piece to sound like the old piece? The worst we can do of any composer is to expect every piece to sound the same, and the worst a composer can do is write to that end.

My involvement in the creation of a new piece for band requires solitude – and in my line of work, that can be a scarce commodity. I seek the solitude to listen to my inner musical voice. I must seek solidarity as well if the piece is to not only speak to listeners and performers of the now, but also in the future. I often hear the words of Dr. Jenkins (who I studied with at Duquesne) in between projects. When I asked him what kind of composer he was he said “I hope I am popular now, and classical later.” This coming from the same man who tells people that his favorite piece is “hopefully my next one!”. I hope that each new creative journey is a new one for me, and the band that eventually brings the music to life. I hope I learn something new about writing (as I did on English Carol Fantasy) and something new about myself.

My fear is not finding the right note. I have sketchbooks filled with notes I have found during the process. Some great ideas are always waiting there to find me in between projects. Sometimes that process is rekindled by these ideas, and my journey using these “old maps” seems less intimidating. I do not fear the process – because it is in the process that my growth begins. My understanding deepens. There is one immediate project that will occupy me until late October. It is Christmas carol (though not well known) with simplistic beauty and clarity that I have always wanted to set for a concert band. Anxious to start? Yes. Excited? Yes. Always optimistic? Yes. Will it speak to the future? I hope. Will it live in the now? Again I hope it does. Will the performer and I be better for having brought it to life? Sometimes that is why I write – I want to find that answer out.

When I keep my goals for writing in mind, the results are usually pretty good. So the search begins. If Beethoven (who felt music should enoble the listener) can find the right notes without being able to hear them, I think I will do just fine. All of us (non-musicians included) spend our lives looking for that one note. And when we find it, and we put it into place, the soundtrack of life sounds a whole lot better.

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1 Comment

  1. Travis,

    I am excited to read your posts on your own blog. I have been following your writings at mustech.net. I look forward to reading more of your posts here.

    Best wishes,

    John S.

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