Thoughts

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I find my compositions are like children. Some are favored, others are ‘accepted’. Some grow quickly, effortlessly, with enthusiasm and creative richness. Occasionally a piece requires struggle, sweat and tears, rework, rethink, reject. It is a joy to return to a composition after not seeing it for a long time, to be surprised that “I wrote that”! However, I rank myself as amateur and student, with plenty to learn in all facets of creating something for others to perform.

The “Pseudo-Ragtime Piano Cycle” is a perfect example of both compositional natures. They were the very first works done using computer-based MIDI playback and standard notation. All but one (of the 12 key cycle) were finished the first half of 1990. The last piece in G-flat had to wait until 2017 for completion.

I cringe at the recollection that those pseudo-rags were created on a computer NOT running Windows, using an expensive but full-featured software called “Music Printer Plus”. MPP stood apart from the handful of other music software packages of the day insofar as it was notation-based – and, as I recall, had no facility for piano-roll or non-notation note entry. Since then, writing music has happened in starts and stops – sometimes with 3-7 months hiatus.

There were many happy, positive things happening in my life while “Gigue for Piano and Small Orchestra” was being written, in 2005. As I recall, that piece took all of a week to finish – something that typically does not happen in so few days. When I listen to it now, the optimism and joy of that period comes back to me with great warmth.

My current music studio is a mish-mosh of 5 older hardware synths, powerful Apple iMac system, 8-channel digital hard disk recording workstation, 3 keyboards, assorted monitors, mixers, signal chain effects and a few gizmos and knick-nacks. Also present and awaiting incorporation are a modeling 6-string guitar and 5-string bass. I’ve played bass for nigh on 42 years. I bought the guitar in 2015 and know a few (unstable) chords.

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There is a strange dichotomy found today in the myriad hardware devices and plethora of software options (targeting “young people” in particular) with the unfortunate fact much of the massive outpouring of creativity is… well, trite, shallow and simplistic. Of course that’s my opinion. While I embrace the ‘container-ism’ of music created using looped sequences and samples, my preferred approach is beginning with the notation. Don’t get me wrong – there are times when loops and sequences speed up the creation process in orders of magnitude. And that process is well suited to creating what is definitely “modern music”, but less-so for creating ‘serious’ (a.k.a. ‘classical’).

The bottom line and my suggestion to others: “Just Do It.” I strongly advocate for hands-on. Experiment. Revise, take alternate roads and try out a wide assortment of tools, styles, and methods. Rather than shy away from the “hot, new thing”, why not give it a go? The fairly new, real-time, loop & sample-based compositional quasi-programming environment ‘SonicPi’ is a superb example of something different with a huge potential. I encourage all to check it out!

sonic-pi Sonic-Pi Website