Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Process of Writing Music - Can There Be a Greater Mystery?...

Among my usual pursuits is the very occasional event dealing with composition.
The pursuits I have been actively involved in are:
Public performance (until some four years ago), musicology, theory (including specific involvement in harmonic and polyphonic analysis),  arts history, and  pedagogy (which I enjoy the most).
Which means, of course, that the art of composition is at the bottom of my list of priorities. I very rarely write, and only for  a particular person or event. The greater part of my life has been involved with about only a dozen or so compositions. In my young years I wrote large numbers of pieces, which ceased upon my realizing that there was much more that I could actuate in the field at a far higher level.
Of all my pursuits, the only aspect which involves  a personal 'wrestling bout' is composition. Strangely, I have never really enjoyed the process - it has always felt rather 'foreign' to me; almost as if I have been forcing myself to shove my consciousness into an area of 'comfort' while writing.
In addition, an uncanny feeling arises veritably every time I sit down to compose; that is, a feeling that someone outside of me is moving my pencil. I almost always feel that when ever an idea pops into being, someone, or something other than  me, is writing the idea down - it is a most uncomfortable experience. And yet, as the ideas hatch, there is a form of some excitement or anticipation that forms.
In other words, I am not comfortable when I compose.
Are we not our own  greatest mystery?
In spite of the above, a  number of my works for unaccompanied violin appears  on YouTube, performed by an established violinist. His name is Ricardo Odriozola, and this man should be heard - he has much to say.
And I like what I hear - HAS to be the performer, not the music. He is a wonderful violinist, and has recorded much in his career.
And the mystery continues for me, when I read, in letters of Mozart, his awe at what he is able to do. Without a trace of ego, he is asking (to paraphrase)  "HOW can I do what I do? How could  that symphony be committed to paper so quickly?"
Or Beethoven - in his Heiligenstadt  letter, he begins with thoughts of suicide, but ends with determination to give to the world the results of the power that had been given him.
And Brahms - destroying some of his own work that dissatisfied him.
I'm not in any way, of course, comparing myself to these great composers. I am merely pointing out how that indefinable power  can  form  such defining results; or in my case, induce me to  come up with a list of priorities within the art I  have become   so much a part of.
Like with Horowitz, who, at the beginning, really thought of becoming a composer (yes, really!).
But, listen to his  "Valse Excentrique"  and be glad he changed his mind!
Just having fun...          


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Another Example of "The Art Of" - One of the Great Documentaries...

As a  reminder : I've long synthesized the term "the art of " and the creative process; whether the product is, say,   the Edison light bulb; or, Tesla and AC; or, Horowitz and the piano transcription, etc., etc.
I once created  an arts course, titled "Sights and Sounds,"  which combined these two elemental aspects of consciousness by way of fusing the artist and musician in countless ways in order to enhance each of these powers; for instance, dealing with Impressionist artists and Debussy in their products of depiction, such as, say, a body of water.
Then why not "the art of"  the Word?     Shakespeare? - enough said...
One of my favorite activities is to collect documentaries that are so defining and  powerful in message as to represent, at a high level of attainment, the altering of the direction of the Road of History.
One such example is, in my view, a documentary made in 1981 by a  wonderful writer , who, I think,  is still teaching at Master's level, the profession of journalism at  the University of California. His name is Jon Else.
When I first saw the work shortly after its release, my primary reaction was " I need to  own this documentary", - which I immediately proceeded to do.
The title is "The Day After Trinity:   J. Robert  Oppenheimer and the Atomic  Bomb"
The sense of a rather arcane, engrossing; yet, rather gentle form of atmosphere wafts out of  this video - the narrative Else writes to depict the tale of the  men and women grappling with one of the mysteries in our existence is so wonderfully fused to the Byzantine path leading to that  defining moment in New Mexico just weeks before Hiroshima - some of the finest writing I've been witness to,  in this form of presentation.
The gradual destruction of the moral core of a number of physicists working in the Manhattan Project is so disturbingly evident in the  increasingly vacant, and, in a sense, dying  eyes of such great scientists as  Hans Bethe, Robert Wilson and Oppenheimer's brother Frank, also a physicist, who at times, in interview, wraps his arms around his head in anguish as he describes his reactions to that first atomic explosion in the desert.
And so; in this documentary, Jon Else, in unparalleled power, depicts the feeling of these geniuses  undergoing, within a second, the horrendous journey of  "We did it!!"  to "My God, What Have We Done?"
I have yet to witness a more brilliant example of the Power of the Word...


Friday, November 11, 2016

Movie Composers With Something to Say...

With all of  the movie  composers we know about, were any of them involved with  a number  of the world's greatest performers?
How about:
Miklos Rozsa, who  wrote a concerto for Jascha Heifetz? Rozsa also wrote music for the cellists Janos Starker and Gregor Piatigorsky.
Franz Waxman wrote music for Heifetz.
Louis Gruenberg also wrote a violin concerto for Heifetz.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote a concerto for Heifetz.
The composers listed above were widely known for their movie scores, some being submitted  for Oscar  nominations.
These, plus  a handful of other movie composers, reached beyond the Expected with their work for some of the world's great performers.
Among the present-day movie composers, John Williams is, arguably, the best-known for his masterful scores in some of the great movies so familiar to us. I wonder, at the same time -  how many of us are familiar with his work outside of the cinema?  Do listen to one of  his  most imaginative compositions; a Concerto for tuba,  as an example of his enormous creative range...


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Another Aspect of the Creative Process - Words, Rather Than Notes...

Thought it was time for a form of what we might  call 'divertissement' -  let's embrace a presentation of pithiness encrusted by a bit of humor :
Submitted is a brief list of my some of my favorite expressions; not in any particular order, but as they appear in my memory bank while punching these keys:

Never argue with an idiot, as any bystanders involved will not be able to identify the idiot  -   O.  Wilde

A bureaucracy is a large organization run by pygmies  - H. Balzac

He has Van Gogh's ear for music   - B. Wilder

I never let my schooling interfere with my education  -   M. Twain

Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it hundreds of times  -  M. Twain

Pure terror is upon awakening and discovering that the country is being run by the high school class  - K. Vonnegut

I've  had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't  it  - G. Marx

Do you remember how dumb I used to be?  Well, I'm better now  -  S. Laurel

Do share any of  these kinds of "aphorisms" you have stored, with me - I'd love to know them!
I promise to return  to  my form of 'normalcy'  next time...

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