Well, we finally had the premiere of Verbs, Book 2 a couple of weeks ago, and that was thrilling for me, and also caused me to sit back a let out a big sigh: that project is essentially complete, at last!
Writing the 24 preludes of Verbs is the biggest compositional project I’ve ever undertaken. When Keith asked me to do it, I happily said yes, then wondered what I’d gotten myself into and if I could really write 24 whole pieces! for someone else! that he would actually like! and in time!!!
Fortunately, Keith was pretty flexible on the timing; originally we thought I would compose all 24 in 2007, and instead I made it into a two year project.
I was honored and thrilled to receive the PMTNM commission. Then I created a bit of writer’s block for myself, worrying that my writing would not be “good enough” to justify the commission. This past spring I spent a lot of time rejecting the musical ideas that came to me. As you might imagine, not many pieces flowed out then!
Which brings me to the “my process” part of this ramble: how I got over my writer’s block. One day, I think in June, I was fretting about Shatter (which did require a few revs to get “just so”), when the verb tangle popped into my head. I knew immediately that it had to be one of the verbs that I set to music, and also that it would be a tango. (Seemed obvious!)
And that it would be in F# minor.
And that it would have two lines that twisted into a tangle.
And that it would be really fun to write. So I started playing with it immediately, and not doubting myself, and having fun and following the musical ideas wherever they led me: not only a tango, but also 12-bar blues form. A funny multi-tonal version of F# minor for the first verse. Great emphasis on e-sharp/f-natural, even to the very last note!
I think Tangle is the strongest writing I’ve ever done, and it also is hot, sexy, interesting, unique music. I knew I liked it, and when Keith played it at the premiere I was stunned at how much I liked it. Now my goal is to learn to play it well, with Keith’s performance as my model.
The moral of my little rambling: constantly second–guessing our creative ideas — fatal! Following those ideas wherever they lead — sublime!
And may we all be able to remember that every day of our creative practice!