I tend to use the word “composing” a bit loosely. The word “arranging” might be more appropriate for what I’m currently about. I wrote the song “Bone of My Bones” in my head a little over a year ago, when I was still homeless in Berkeley. I arranged it shortly after I moved up to Idaho, and used that arrangement as the first movement in my Royal Rhapsody. But then, throughout the months that passed since creating that arrangement, I kept “hearing” a different feel for “Bone of My Bones,” one that suggested rock instruments and a driving rock beat in places. So I created the arrangement linked to the title below, and I called that process “composing.”
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope
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It often seems to me that I am not truly “composing” the piece in question until I actually put the notes down on paper, reasonably replicating the way that I “hear” those notes in my head. Hence, the looseness of terminology. Also, I’m intending to use this version of “Bone of My Bones” as part of a much larger piece, described in this post. All of the themes I allude to have already been “composed” in my head. But have they truly been composed? If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear the sound, did it really fall?
Well – if you want my opinion, it did. But enough people differ from that opinion, I figured it would be best to post a more-or-less philosophical disclaimer at this time. We basically do not know at what point in the process the “composing” of the musical piece actually begins. In like manner, we also do not know when the composing of the piece of music ends.
Case in point. When I started working on Bones again, I decided to name the first file “Bones 17-A” since this was the year 2017, and I wanted to distinguish it from the 2016 version. When I got to Version 18-F, it therefore meant that I had created 32 versions of the piece, going all the way through the alphabet once, from 17-A to 17-Z, and then up to the letter F with the number 18 preceding. I then played Version 18-F for a friend of mine named Cindy.
Cindy liked the piece of music, even though it wasn’t nearly finished yet. Then, when I got to Version 18-W, the 53rd version (the one you are hearing now), I wanted to play it for her again — but she said:
Apparently, she thought it was fine the way it was, and that I had no need to work on it any further. Yet I had already created seventeen more versions of the piece! At that point, I was afraid to play it for her, for fear that she wouldn’t think it had evolved.
But if I defer to my own sovereignty in the matter (since after all, I am the Artist here), I still don’t think it’s done, even at Version 18-W. The only reason why I have stopped here, and am permitting you all to hear it in this highly incomplete state, is because I know it’s only one theme in a much larger work, and I want to get onto the other themes, and start connecting them together. In that process, many things are bound to change anyway, so I might as well not be too much of a perfectionist. At the extreme, I would keep working on it until it was Bones 47-C or greater. And I would never get anything else done, in life, at all.
I once lived behind a Fine Artist – a sculptor, in fact, one of great renown. I had to walk through his studio in order to get to my apartment. (A bizarre but symbiotic arrangement.) Once, for days on end, I saw him become increasingly frustrated working on a certain sculpture. Finally, he said something to me as I passed through.
“Andy, do you see that spot there? I’ve been trying for days to get it off of this damn thing! It’s ruining the whole sculpture!”
“Spot?” I queried. “What spot? I don’t see anything.”
“Right there! Don’t you see it? It’s right there, damn it — getting in the way of everything!!”
“Uh…er…Darryl — who is the sculptor whom you revere the most?”
“Why, Marcel Duchamp. You know that already, Andy.”
“And what did Marcel Duchamp say about the completion of a work of Art?”
“He said that he never finished a piece of Art. He only abandoned it.”
“Well, I hate to break it to you, Daryl, but I think it’s about time you abandoned this sculpture.”
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