Friday, January 11, 2008

on composing

and so i've been composing. if you've been reading my blog lately, you might have noticed or guessed that i'm in a very intense emotional place. many things have converged over the past week or so, and i have found myself reticent and melancholy.

and playing music.

which is rare for me. you see, when i was at the illustrious oberlin college conservatory of music, i was immersed in music roughly sixteen hours a day. i loved it, then i hated it, and then it all began to feel so futile. the love i had for music when i arrived in ohio had somehow faltered. even though i have written music since i graduated, it has always been an uphill battle.

but these past few days have found me singing along loudly to songs on my ipod. i've been obsessed with the song "falling slowly" to the point that i've written down the lyrics and chords and i play it on my piano every chance i get. i even recorded myself singing it. and then, just an hour ago, i did something rash.

i started to compose music. yes, it consisted of three notes total. they are three notes that will be in my opera. oh, have i not mentioned the opera? it's the one about cancer, the one that i tried to write a grant for last year but failed to submit. now i'm preparing another proposal anew, with more specific ideas and some material. i've enlisted my lovely friend corey dargel to write at least one "aria/song" for me. but...

i'm gonna have to compose the rest.

which is what my soul wants to do. really, it does. but just now, as i was sitting over my three notes (they are g, e, and b, incidentally, an e minor triad) i found myself at once deeply connected to my piano, like a plug in a socket, and then also fundamentally repulsed by it. i recall composing assignments in college and how i would sit in the library, write about ten bars and then go to the bathroom. i'd come back, write ten more and then go find a friend. it was very rare for me to compose very much music in one sitting. i just thought i was lazy, a perennial procrastinator.

now, for the first time, i realize this is not true. as much as i've tried to distance myself from music, it is that abstraction, that inability to describe music, that totally uncerebral part of it that has always hooked me. when i am in music the way that i came to it, music is pure and uncomprimised emotion. even the stuff by the serialists. it hits a core of me that feels so close, i can actually experience ecstasy.

and it makes me feel vulnerable. like i have no skin. like anything and everything can and will harm me.

this is why i learned to love music when i was an angsty teen. this is why i learned to hate music as an angry twenty-something.

singing other people's music still has a distance. i didn't write it, so there is that tiny space in the performance of it that i can explore affect. but my own music, fuck.

i've never written a piece of music (never finished one, that is) that i could play. i thought it was just because i'd never gotten around to it. but now i know. it's because there you are, playing out the notes that are so dear to you, presenting not only your body, but your naked, naked soul. with no "instrumentalist" or "singer" to blame. how the hell can i do that?

the thing is, i will. this cancer opera (called "una corda," did i mention that?) will get done. i'm supremely uncomfortable about it. i have so much anxiety, i've actually been having trouble eating. but somewhere inside me, i know it is time. it is time to become that vulnerability, to embrace it. and, fuck, it is the most frightening thing in the world right now.

i think that's why it's the best, too.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Congratulations, KT. This is such an important and brave leap. Thanks for sharing your process, showing the way.