Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Evolution of a Composer: A Pictorial (Part II of II)

  • I finally decided to go to school for composing and ended up at Virginia Tech in 1996 where my first composition professor hated everything I brought in and constantly asked me to do exercises where I should "put a few wrong notes in the score". Over time, lessons became less about learning new craft (because I was a stubborn son of a bitch) and more about a cat-and-mouse game where I would try to convert his dissonance exercises into tonality. One trick I used to do was to put four consecutive quarter notes somewhere in the score, and see how long it took him to zero in on them and change them for "rhythmic interest's sake". I think he batted near .992 or so on catching them all. If my compositions were a game of Pokemon, he was beating the crap out of Snorlax.

  • My next composition professor was on his way out the retirement door, and had another house up at Northern Illinois University where he spent most of my lessons. He would rather be sitting on his stoop with a six pack of Rolling Rock than actually doing any teaching, which is why kids abandoned his Music Appreciation classes like rats on a sinking ship. He pretty much gave me free reign to write whatever I wanted, and occasionally interrupted his stories of yore to correct some technical problems. This was a great composing environment for me and I wrote my best music under him. This was also when I roomed with Kelley Corbett, who one day said, "Dude, Uri, you write some crazy sh_t".

  • Once you get to Master's level composing, you have to care about it to succeed, and I didn't. Being in an environment where half the people really know what they're doing while the other half really think they know what they're doing makes you second-guess everything you write, and the fun, care-free days of writing songs over I - VII - VI - V without caring how it will be received are long gone. I got tired of the composers' concerts with songs like "Fantasy Using One Note for Three People Shooting Snot Into a Bucket" or "Insert Any Word Here for Solo Flute Because They Are the Easiest People to Guilt Trip Into Performing For You". As a result, my output went way down and the only things I have to show for my two years are a string quartet which sucked, and a chamber piece which didn't suck.

  • From there, I crawled back to the world of composing-light, where you can write music that performers want to play and the average American joe wants to hear, where no one looks down their nose at you when you arrange Irish Washerwoman for Doobie (even though he never plays it, PMO). I very rarely ever write these days, but when I do, it's fun again! And that's the whole point. Why do it if you don't enjoy it?
  • New LOST on tonight! Last one until May sweeps month! If you like to Tivo these things, make sure you set it for 65 minutes not 60.

    Hurry up, grandma
    Yahaya needs more minutes
    Gamers make good robbery targets

    tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments


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