22 April 2009

The Inspiration Post

One can be inspired by anything; the trick is being alive to inspiration, and maintaining one’s senses in good receptive condition. Nimbleness of artistic brain is a plus, too.

In the course of a conversation which largely distilled down to your music isn’t quite what we are (or what I am) looking for, a fellow composer offered the advice that I should listen to new music all the time. It would not have changed anything, so I did not trouble to offer the fact that I do listen to new music—music new to me, whether of old vintage or new—quite often. Even in cases where I do not much care for what I hear, it is often value-added, it is never a waste of any time.

My mom-in-law Irina, who worked (for twenty years) as a professional architect in the city which was then called Leningrad, and who earned two college degrees, in both architecture, and painting, looks through magazines all the time. “You never know; an ad for a toilet may spark some ideas.”

So listening to music unknown to me, and which in many cases unfolds in ways that deviate from long-established patterns, is an excellent habit for a composer to cultivate. You may like what you hear: good. You may not much like what you hear: good, too.

Many times over the years I’ve heard a piece which I found a deadly bore. —I don’t take that boredom as necessarily indicating genuine aesthetic failure in the piece; if I listen to it again, ten years later, I may feel quite differently about the piece.

Setting aside any question of whether the offending piece is, by “objective” standards, a “failure”; one allows an artist his artistic dislikes (which may be fleeting . . . or not). Because what matters is not necessarily an artist’s dislike of this or that work of art, but the artistic use to which the composer may turn that dislike.

Thus, in focusing attention upon the deadly-bore piece (sort of on the Cagean principle of if you find the music boring, listen some more, and you find that it becomes interesting), I’ll pick out elements and think, here they appear in a a piece which, as a totality, I cannot endorse.

So how I might make those elements, and make use of them in a piece I can ‘believe in’?

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