February 11th, 2007 § 2 comments


I’m wondering if any of you other composers out there have had the following experience.

It’s certainly taken me long enough, but I believe I’ve discovered a significant recurring pattern in my songwriting process. As this pattern is intimately connected to the gut-churning angst and seasick swirling despair I commonly experience during the writing process, perhaps I should attend to it.

For years I’ve noted that in the process of writing any non-trivial song I always, if the song is to be successfully finished, at some point find myself in a state of really horrible emotional swirlies… At this point in the process, I cannot imagine how I’ll ever find my way through to a satisfying conclusion. I feel really bad. Despair. Physically sick. Disoriented. My compass is broken.

I recognize the beginning of this state and tell myself it’s a good thing – this means I’m making progress. Unfortunately, it needs to be real angst – cultivated angst doesn’t cut it.

I’ve tried.

So what’s going on here?

I think what happens is that when I first discover a new song to write, I let it begin to grow within my already established, and, I should add, more or less stably oriented musical body/mind. My ongoing musical and emotional orientation can be viewed as a Cartesian coordinate system of a sort. The new song finds a place to grow, tethered or at least oriented to my personal coordinate system.

Through endless iterations, the song grows within my body/mind, still functioning within the medium of my established musical being and attached to my personal coordinate system. However, after a time, if the song is any good – and I would not be working on it if it weren’t any good – the song demands to come to terms with itself on it’s own terms and casts itself off, away from my personal coordinates.

My body/mind is the medium within which this fledgling song swims. So the better part of my body/mind (songwriting takes all I’ve got) flies away with the song, which is in the process of an unstable gravitational coalescence around its newly liberated center of mass.

The human being caught up in all this experiences a seasick, despairing swirling sensation.


Right now I’m working on a song called Thirty Years for Jasper. So far despair eludes me…

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