Saturday, August 4, 2007

Mr. ComposerHead Asks Himself – WHY TO BLOG?

(Note: When Mr. ComposerHead says he has been invited to post his comments "here" - he really meant "there". Starting with this post, however, Mr. C's writing will appear in full only "here", i.e. on Mr. C's own blog - even if he must still rely on me to upload his material for him. The pictures are still my idea.

Meanwhile, over "there", I will add another article pointing back over "here" with some highlights from this post. Kind of a digest. Or maybe more of a teaser. Sort of a promo. Got that? /David, amanuensis to Mister H.)

Mr. ComposerHead Asks Himself – WHY TO BLOG?

I have been generously invited to post my comments here from time to tme. I have also been encouraged by some people to consider a blog of my own. I don’t think I will do that just now. But I am enjoying thinking through some ideas, and finding it amusing and useful to submit a few occasional ramblings. And I am currently writing more than composing, so it’s kind of timely.

I am finding it, at present, more interesting to write about my experiences than to have more of them. I’ve had a lot of good ones, some not so good, some better than others. But a lot of things don’t drive me anymore to have that thing again. Some of my favorite albums. I don’t want to hear again. I am saturated. Some of the pieces I worked so hard on, passionately, you could not pay me enough to ever perform again. I’ve probably given up the instrument, so it would be moot anyway.

It would be nice to hear a new album, a new artist, that excited me like I was in the days of my youth, the way Captain Beefheart, or Stockhausen, or the Beatles did. The most inspiring thing I’ve heard in decades is Twilight, by the Handsome Family. I bought several copies to give to friends. But I bought another album by them, and I listened to it once. Ehh. I almost don’t listen to music anymore, because it’s so hard to find dead air, and so refreshing when you do. If I put on a CD I sit down and pay attention, and that will probably be “American Recordings” by Johnny Cash. He was awesome, what a superb artist. Although he did the most God Awful version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On the Wire. You can’t believe how horrible it is. Some shitty orchestra, it sounds like a Disney soundtrack gone to a very deep level of hell. It’s nice when he plays it solo though.

The Band was really good. I sometimes watch the Last Waltz, and wish I could have done that. Zappa’s movies all suck. He should have stuck to music and let other people make movies about him. That would have been in his better interest. But I digress…

SIGNAGE - photo by David Ocker
Stockhausen was asked in an interview what he listens for in a younger composer. He said “Surprise me”. Yeah, right. When was the last time anyone surprised you with “new music”?

Okay, I should add that I attended a local event recently that almost made me wish I had a notebook handy. I jotted things down in the car later, so I wouldn’t forget. It is still possible to hear a concert of new music and go home inspired to write some more of your own. Brautigan has a poem along those lines. His friend read his poem and said “It makes me want to write poetry”. That is such a precious moment, a thing more precious because it cannot be bought. When someone else’s work makes you want to do your own. Not copy them or do something even like it. But ideas begin to form, and connections are made. That’s where Art happens. The creative dialogue. We can’t make much art without each other. Art begets art.

That’s why the Guardians of Art suck so much. No one can use the texts of James Joyce or Kurt Schwitters until they go public domain, because their nephews or lawyers, who are not arists, think they are somehow protecting the Artists’ legacies. Personally, I can’t read Joyce. Makes me want to read Ferlinghetti or Brautigan. Ginsberg is good. Really good in fact, even at his most self-indulgent. But I digress…

PAINT CHIP - photo by David Ocker
But how to fnd that Art that inspires?

Some ways. Listen to too much music hoping to fnd the composer who surprises you. Inefficient.

Choose to change your style or (especially) technique, so you have to learn to think again, or think about things differently. You have the advantage if you don’t know what you’re doing. Beginner’s Mind. Shunryu Suzuki said “Always be a beginner. That is the secret of the arts”.

I do not consider myself as having Beginner’s Mind. But that is an intriguing idea. And those are hard to come by – especially within the realm of religion (in this case Zen Buddhism). BTW, I am not a Buddhist, but might consider becoming a Zen-ist, on a trial basis, as long as there are no uniforms or dues.

Or you can just keep servicing the customer (assumimg you have one) and not change a thing.

SCRAPED TRAFFIC POST - photo by David Ocker
Mr. ComposerHead has been known to say “Don’t fix it if it id not broken”. But some things HAVE to be broken, or you don’t work quite right. Composition can become too easy. I like it when it’s easy, when it flows. But it can become TOO easy, and then it’s real hard to do anything much worth doing. There has to be a certain kind of unknown, an edge that you have to negotiate. You have to be learning the piece’s own language as you write it. If you already know it too well, the music is already dead.

Maybe that’s good, because then you are probably already a dead composer! More success to ya!

You do not have to suffer to make good music. But the work should take you on a journey, not just a well-trodden path. Personally, I go to Joshua Tree for that. That’s comfort. Art is not about Comfort.

I don’t know what it’s about, but I don’t think it’s about getting cozy.

Eat mashed potatoes and curl up with a good book for that.