I prefer structured and unstructured improvisation as a starting point to deliberate “note on paper” composition. The notated score may come from what I’m doing, but typically I prefer to start in the wild.
I am inspired by the changing of the light before and after sunrise and sunset. When blushes of color and light transform almost instantaneously, and when the landscape takes on vvid hues while deep pools of shadow form.
The sky at night in dark places likewise always makes me want to lie on the ground and stare upwards, absorbed by the Magellanic cloud of the Milky Way, or the moon close to the horizon. The movement of clouds overhead, and the twinkle of stars on a crisp night.
Inspiration comes as well from my artist friends, from the living of life and from coincidental experiences that command my attention from time to time.
I love sound in all of its flavors. A distant train whistle. The swish of cars on wet pavement. Desert toads after a monsoon rain. The doppler effect of a passing motorcycle. Birds and insects in the air around me.
The indiscernible chatter of crowds in a reverberant space.
I try to work on some musical pursuit every day. But because of my busy work life, the time I have to extend my music making is precious. Likewise, because extended periods to compose are rare, I have a lot of time to think through how I would like to proceed.
Inspiration as a musical detonator comes somewhat randomly, as with the recent purchase of a new and liberating sound library – Soniccoture’s EP73 Deconstructed – a collection of usual and highly unusual sounds gathered from a Fender Rhodes electric piano.
I recently began merely experimenting with the SFX keyboard among the instruments of that sampled library. I liked what I was coming up with but the fact that all were coming from one instrument left them in a less interesting monophonic space. So I started laying down the drone on one track and adding instances of the SFX keyboard, assigning each a different spot in the stereo mix. Each instance drew its material from a different octave of the keyboard layout, introducing a variety of new sounds. Gradually I am creating the building blocks of the improvised piece.
Once a bunch of these have been created, I will start mixing them at various and variable strengths, creating blushes of sound against one another and hopefully realizing some interesting combinations. A range of different mixes will be created using the automation functions of Digital Performer. Similarly new mixes involving a series of different electronic effect modules will be tried. If necessary, other instruments will also be introduced sparingly to provide some contrast and interest.
The process could take weeks or even months, and may result in nothing but the experience of trying something new. But the interesting quality of the source sounds leads me to believe that interesting combinations will arise.
Though the material for these pieces is starting out quite loud, I am ultimately interested in moderate to soft pieces.
I will be posting materials from this venture from time to time to illustrate how the material and my ideas are changing shape.