I suppose that I have spent the last 15 years or so turning nearly everything I have experienced, in one way or another, into music. My journey into serious composing began, once I had amassed the tools to do so, as a kind of chain-writing backlog of everything I experienced musically since childhood. After exhausting my backlog, which took about five years, I would turn pretty much everything I learned into a new piece.
I have come to a point where nothing of value seems to be coming out. Every time I sit down to write these days it comes up as a vague rehash of something I have already written, and it makes me feel pretty lousy. So I have decided to take a kind of sabbatical. It's a learning sabbatical, where I allow myself to read poetry without thinking about how I would set it to music, read novels without thinking about turning them into operas, and playing great music without trying to figure out what makes it great and how I might possibly absorb some of its greatness.
It has been about three weeks since I have decided it is perfectly fine to enjoy the musical world as a player and as a spectator rather than as a maker, and I have already learned a great deal about music and about myself as a result. My daily (and still very much under tempo) encounter with Beethoven at the piano is now an encounter with the composer on an emotional level rather than an encounter that results in intimidation. (Once I have gone through all the Beethoven Sonatas, I'm going to go through the Haydn and Mozart Sonatas again with fresh ears.)
My pre-sabbatical output is 77 compositions published by Subito, and 64 compositions that I have in the IMSLP. There's one more that I'll be putting in at the end of July, after it's performed by our Summer Strings orchestra. That makes 142 compositions (some of them long, like my so-far-unperformed operas, and some of them very short). I'm proud of the body of work I have produced at this point (if you click on the above links, you can see it in all its pre-sabbatical glory), and I am really enjoying the unburdened feeling of not having to produce more right now.
There seems to be more room in my head these days. I even sound better and am more engaged when I play the violin and the viola.
I suppose I have approached the work of being a composer in a kind of backwards (or back woods) way. I know I don't do enough (if anything) with the "business" end of composition, like trying to impress upon people how important it is for them to perform the music I have written. I'm lousy at business. I don't befriend people who have clout in the current musical world because of what they can do for me. I don't toot much of a horn (writing posts here is the best I can do, folks), and I seem to give opinions (on line and in print) that are not really in keeping with what people want to hear.
It's odd to see the changing of the seasons on the musical on-line world. Perhaps 50 people might glance at this post over the next few weeks or months. A few years ago it would have been at least 200, and many of the people reading would respond to what I wrote, either through comments or through another blog post.
We college instructors complain about the lack of engagement we see in our students, but those of us who haven't been students for decades are guilty of the same lack of engagement with the bits of information that flash across our screens, quickly seen, and quickly forgotten.
I hate to engage superficially in any way, and am horrified when I find myself doing so. It is very easy to slip into the habit of superficiality when so much of our daily interactions are accomplished through light-emitting devices.
I wonder, once the internet starts to slow down, and those of us who do not have the means to pay for a ticket to the fast lane, if we might reconsider alternative ways of interacting.