Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Being" a Composer, and Birthday Piece #6

When I turned 50 I decided to celebrate by writing a "Birthday Piece" for viola d'amore and piano to mark every birthday to come. This year's Birthday Piece came a bit early, partly because I needed an escape from a self-imposed opera project that I have been struggling with on and off for more than ten years. I somehow got the idea in my head a couple of months ago that since I had ample time I was now capable of making the opera work, but my constant need to escape from working on it gives me a clear sign that it's time to go onto other things. I have, after all, already written three operas, and none of them has ever been performed.

Sometimes I wonder what it means to "be" a composer. Am I a composer when I'm not writing? Am I a lousy composer when someone politely doesn't respond to a work I have written for him or her (even a commissioned piece)? Money is an easy exchange, but human contact is not. Who is to judge the quality of a piece anyway? The people playing it? The audience? A critic? If I were to stop writing today, would I still be a composer?

I get great pleasure from making things, and that includes writing music when it comes from a deep creative place. That deep creative place used to be like a lake of musical experience. For years and years all I needed to do was "go" to it, and I every time I would draw up something unique. But things seem to have changed of late, and I fear that I have gotten everything from my figurative lake that is available to me. Every time I try something new these days it seems that it is a restatement of something that I have already written. Perhaps it's time to hang up my composing hat for a while and make other things, like hat bands.

This one matches the dress I made the other day.

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