Saturday, November 02, 2002

So next year at this time, I'll be a software engineer in northern Virginia. That doesn't mean I'll stop composing by any stretch of the imagination. I just decided that this is what I need to be doing for the forseeable future, based on a combination of factors. Here are the questions I posed back in August:

Do I have enough inspiration to compose for the span of an entire career without rehashing old material?
Probably so, depending on how prolific I would be. I started off in high school with scads of new music every month, but have continuously slowed down since then. This probably reflects more attention to detail than lack of inspiration, but it's important for me to realize that composing for a living would require me to write consistently, rather than whenever I feel moved to do so. Even now, I'm starting to see subtle things in my thesis that I already said in my string quartet and some earlier works. The average joe isn't going to notice, but I can anticipate that it will be much harder to be fresh if I'm always writing.

Am I a good enough composer to make an artistic difference?
I'd like to think that I write decent music, and there are definitely a few measures of inspired lunacy in my work. But on the whole, my music won't change the face of contemporary music, and it's never tried to. I write particular things because I think it would be neat to. The composing world needs more people willing to push forward, and there's already a good majority with nothing to say who don't know how to shut up.

Am I motivated enough to "sell" myself competitively and professionally in an already-struggling academic field?
Yes, I could do it. No, I wouldn't want to. With purse strings getting tighter and composers seen as ancillary, I can picture the constant sales pitch needed to attain a decent position in life. I don't have a "go-get-'em" attitude when it comes to music, and I think it's very important for people in music to have that if they're willing to get anywhere. Plus, in the computer field I've already "got-'em" so to speak. Why fight to establish myself in another field when I've already staked a claim in one? Someone without a split focus could provide just as much competency as me, and would probably appreciate it more.

Will the amount of time and effort devoted to a Doctorate make me that much better at composing (quantitatively speaking)?
No. I do not do a good job of taking advantage of my situation and pursuing a Doctorate wouldn't necessarily change that about me. I don't have the urge to explore new possibilities, listen to new music, or take advantage of performances, which tells me that I shouldn't make music my first priority.

In addition to these points, there's also a few others. Notably, it's too easy for me to use my split focus as an excuse or crutch, and I'd like to do away with it. When I pursued the disparate fields equally as an undergrad, I could always attribute my shortcomings in one field to my attention in the other field. As long as I have both doors propped open, I'll be able to fall back on that excuse, and it's a habit that I need to stop.

This is all coupled with the fact that this computer opportunity came at just the right time. With the state of the economy and the mindset of both fields, now seemed like the time to jump onboard with FGM, and FGM in particular. The fact that the company is an incredible working environment played as big a role as any of the above musical reasons. If I hadn't had an offer specifically from FGM, I would continue with the Doctorate.

Finally, I'm tired of learning to live and want to start living. I've been in the bastions of higher education for seven consecutive years now (since I was sixteen), and I'd like to get some real responsibility and goals underway. I'd like to stop living in temporary places, stop moving every year, and start considering somewhere to be a permanent home (perhaps even with furniture and pictures on the wall!). Though I admit to some bias with going back to good old northern Virginia, I can also consider the fact that FGM has offices in Colorado Springs, San Diego, and Hawaii as well, if I ever get tired of Virginia. I probably won't though; the pace of life there suits me.

It's not like I'm quitting composing -- I'm just bailing out of official composition education. Northern Virginia has a plethora of performance opportunities and I'll still be writing and practicing whenever the urge strikes me.

Questions or comments? Have I made a mistake? Want to come along? As always, you can e-mail me with the icon on the upper right.

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