Pump It Up

April 5th, 2009 § 0 comments


Music composition is many things.  I’ve looked at the process holistically here at theWheel on a couple of occasions.

Here’s a linear take.

Music composition is like a stream of  water flowing from a hose down a dry driveway.  Watch the little stream fall into a crack – flow north – oops, that’s all full – there’s a pool forming – will it break through? oh – there’s another pool at the same time…  One of these pools is eventually going to overflow in a way that enables the water to find its way to that clear channel there that will certainly reach all the way to the curb.

But which one?  Or will these pools eventually fail and yet a third option be entertained?

What made me think of this?  Well, I’m working on a piece of music – as a matter of fact a setting of Arnold Lobel’s FABLE THE PIG AT THE CANDY STORE, and there’s a spot in the FABLE where the text reads “But the candy store was closed.”  At this point my musical conception of the FABLE can go in at least two different, mutually exclusive, and so far equally plausible directions.  Harmonically, I’m on a Bb dominant in Eb, and I know I’m going to C minor, but I can either go through a G dominant or walk down from Eb.

I’m still in the process of exploring the ramifications of either choice.  They are not radically different choices, but seem at this point to have very different consequences.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten to the point where I have a way to deal with this kind of impasse.  I just proceed with both paths in turn, and whenever the water/music seems to want to prefer one channel over another, I just go with it.  Maybe I need to let one of the basins/pools/channels fill all the way up before the other smaller, perhaps less obviously promising channel can be given its due and be recognized in hindsight to be clearly superior.

A question that occurs to me is whether it could be useful to deliberately intervene and dam up one or the other paths?  I think not.  Best to just run with it.  So long as one does not fall in love prematurely with one’s exploratory work, there’s no harm in exploration.

Actually, what if I just turned up the volume of water coming from the hose?  Can I pump even more music through this piece – er, water down this driveway?

My spigot has fluctuating water pressure.

Pump it up.

By the way, I was going to actually make a video of water flowing down my driveway this afternoon, but I would have had to turn on the water to the outside spigots (which have been off for the winter freeze), and seeing that we’re likely to get 4 to 8 inches of snow tonight, I figured I’d best just let it wait another week or two.

Spring comes to Michigan in May, more or less…

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