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taking steps out of order

when i first opened the gates to this corner of my website, my intention was to discuss my thesis here. i have done this (albeit in an abstract way) with regard to the subject material i'm grappling with, but i want to try and approach the conversation from a practical perspective, too.

truth be told, i haven't decided what my "thesis" will manifest as. there are no rules. often, i find myself wading in uncertainty. there is value in patience; there's value in living in the questions.

i am writing a piece for orchestra—that much is established. this feels like opening a door, which actively opposes summative nature of a thesis, but we could call this my thesis anyway.

we could call this my thesis—we could sketch the piece out a hundred times—we could write a list of adjectives—we could describe the sounds we want to hear as if we are god's favorite poet. let's say we know the very trajectory and scope and landscape of the piece.

regardless of what steps i take to get there, notes on the page sometimes feel tragic.

transforming the intangible to the tangible is ultimately an act of translation. as artists, there is no way to preserve all the textures, contours, and colors that exist in the ether of our heads. the work of this translation requires infinite decisions, infinite compromises. when working with music, the translation process happens at least twice: once from my ear to the paper, another from the paper into the performer's instrument. i think of a game of telephone and wonder how much of my intention gets lost, how much more intent should i supply in order to offset the losses, what i can do technically ensure the feeling remains in tact.

i like to leave an extra glimpse behind in the performer's note, as a thank you for realizing my piece, perhaps—or i like the romantics of a secret kept between just us. but then, with an orchestra, there's even another mediator: the conductor.

so ultimately, part of me does mourn the notes that exist on the page. i have a hard time accepting rigid, inflexible, symbols that compromise what i hear in my inner world. it feels like nailing down planks.

but this is a trap. the beauty of making something is that it is made—past tense; that it exists.

where planks are nailed down, there is a path for us to walk upon.

there is a way forward.

there is a way to progress.

there is a way for us to learn.

the only way to learn how to compose is to sit and compose. the only way to compose is, ultimately, to make decisions. the only way to live is to make decisions.

good/bad decisions, right/wrong decisions, nothing like that exists here in this space where we create.

it can't. it is necessary to accept that each act of creation is also an act of learning.

nothing is easy, clean, or linear. take a look:

bringing a piece of music to life is a collaboration between one's self and the idea. it's like detective work; i'm always looking and listening for clues as to how the piece wants to manifest.

as you can see, i lost my title along the way. not once has a piece ended up where i thought it would when i started writing it! this is a blessing at the end of the process and something of a curse at the beginning.

but, as of today, i feel like i've almost cobbled together something i can be genuinely proud of, and this is a good feeling. this is why i go through the process of making things, over and over and over again.

and here's a look at my scores. so much work happened in my physical notebooks, and i'll probably write a post about that, too—but this is from my first day working in Sibelius (when i was sketching ideas with a piano, first):

day ??? (yesterday):

none of the material from the first few weeks of working has made it into the version of this piece that exists now. and now, as i begin to wrap a bow on this work, i get to do what i find quite enjoyable—which is edit and polish. i get to make the score clean, i get to bedazzle my moments...

advice courtesy of prof. chambers

this part of the process feels like an act of love to myself, the self who began the piece in the first place. edits, revisions, engraving: all of this is indeed extending kindness.

one mantra has kept me writing throughout the past few months: there is no perfect piece of music, and there is no magnum opus. each and every artist we so revere are little animals just like us; we are all doing the best we can with whatever we have to offer.

every day that i sit down to work on this piece, these are the thoughts that pass through... the process is long and winding and frustrating and absolutely necessary. the solution is, as per usual, to stop worrying and start listening.

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