Good evening from lovely Woodside, California.
I had a bit of stuck-ness this week as I forged ahead on my first ever serious orchestra piece, and it's not just an orchestra piece. It's a viola concerto, and I'm writing it for my best friend for his birthday. So I had better not screw this up, right?
The endeavor is scary and the material is new. (But as Merce Cunningham says, "The only way to do it is to do it." And that's right! Like a total newbie, I've had to go back to some orchestration guides and do a lot of listening/score study but it's started to flow more and more easily.)
Lucky for me, I'm at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, so I am surrounded by brilliant creatives who are kind enough to hear me out. I ran my stuck-ness problem by a few of the writers, who were already discussing their own tactics to get un-stuck and keep workflow painless. I chimed in regarding my need to write pencil-to-paper so that I could spacially and gesturally navigate my pieces and easily see the big picture. That's when one resident, E. Dolores Johnson, told me about a tool that many writers use to organize their thoughts and ideas, especially in large form: storyboarding!
She let me visit her studio and study her own storyboard. She uses different colored index cards to indicate different characters (in her case, voices of real people: herself, her mother, and her daughter, along with different colored cards for explanation and speculation) and pace their stories and thoughts throughout her novel. She explained that the colors clearly show pacing and balance between the different people and illuminate places where more of a certain voice is needed.
I thought: that's what I need to help me organize my concerto! It's like a bird's eye view!
So I made my first composition "storyboard" and here is how it's coming so far:
So far the piece has expanded to be closer to 8 minutes (of a projected 10 minutes) but so far I think that this will be a great tool to use in the future! This is just one of the beautiful things about coexisting with artists of other mediums.
It's pretty cool to look at, but not as beautiful as the sunset was the night before.
There's no filter on this baby ^
Wow. Okay. I guess that makes sense. For every paper I've written in school, I've read books, watched videos, and done listening and analysis before even starting an outline. Why should composing be different?
Maybe I just needed to hear it from a writer.
After this stunning revelation, I forgave myself for what time I thought I had "wasted" during this amazing residency, and wrote a new list of what a good creative process should be (as I said, for me, at this time. Everyone is different).
For those who don't care to read my sloppy handwriting, here's the new list that I came up with:
6. stepping away
7. repeat steps 1 and 3
I realized after I composed this list that I hardly honor any of these steps. Especially not the dreaming or the celebrating parts (INTJ problems, surely). Stepping away is also a huge struggle for me. At most, I sleep on my work for "a night"--and I've realized that's not enough time to revisit it with a clear head.
I guess that's why some composers say they keep 2-4 pieces going at the same time, all in different stages (planning, writing, resting, finalizing/engraving/partmaking). And on top of all of that there's social media and promotion and doing stuff like this silly blog that we have to keep up with. Oof.
But anyway. Here's a picture of my face after a productive writing session at my studio a few days ago. I've been feeling a little ugly lately (probably comes as a side effect of feeling "unproductive" as I previously defined it, as beauty is linked to efficiency in my eyes), so I'm not sharing this in a narcissistic way, but maybe more as a symbol of making some changes and looking at life and sound work as positive and exciting things. Less judgment more art. Ya know?
How does your creative process look? How do you allocate your research/time/leisure? How do you treat yourself and celebrate after the completion of a piece?
No filter on this photo either ;) though I'm embarrassed that I'm wearing the same shirt as my last selfie...?
WE'RE IN THE WOODS, OKAY? NO JUDGMENT.
Love you all.