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On Forgetting How to Write Music…

About a year ago I wrote a blog entry entitled ‘On Not Writing Music’ where I discussed how little music I had written that year and how strange it was for a ‘professional’ composer not to be composing. And I was left wondering how and when I would get back on the compositional horse. It was a classic. Well, it wasn’t, but it generated some discussion and got me thinking about the process of writing music and when I might look forward to creating something new again. Well, fast-forward to the tail-end of 2019 and I have recently tried to mount that horse and I can tell you neither me nor the horse is currently enjoying this ride (I am however, enjoying this horse-riding analogy), so I thought it a good opportunity to write down my thoughts again before they race off to the next hurdle (I’m quite good at this…).

I’m not a particularly prolific composer, and I certainly don’t have a compulsion to write music at all times of the day and every day of the week – far from it – I only write when there is a need, whether that is for money or not. I just can’t write music purely for the joy of writing music, I never have, and I probably never will – I just don’t see the point, and I don’t have the time. I wish I did, I would have a huge number of unperformed pieces that could be magicked up on demand, and would no doubt look mightily impressive. But I can’t do that, I don’t have that facility, but I really do admire those composers that have that skill and desire. That being said, I do write regularly, slowly and with good intentions, and will finish a handful of pieces each year. Apart from last year. And, it appears, this year as well. But I’ve never had such a fallow period, such a prolonged period without even attempting to write music in a concerted fashion – what would it be like when I tried again?

Horrible. Everything feels hard work, every note sounds wrong, every phrase sounds cliched and I am creatively moribund. Apart from that, it was great.

I’m obviously exaggerating, but it hasn’t been easy – it’s not just that I’ve lost my sharpness (no pun intended) in the actual act of composing, but I’ve lost my patter with the culture that accompanies it: when to compose, how long to compose for, where to get inspiration from, when to stop trying to compose. I’m on the horse and we’re moving, but we’re not going fast, and I may fall off. And I’m not sure it is even a horse. I have been creative over the past eighteen months, I wrote a book and dealt with some tricky university issues – so it’s not like I haven’t done anything – but I haven’t written much music. Part of the problem is that I find writing music actually very difficult, not doing it for a period has just made it even more difficult and I’m currently regretting that book and academic management. Well, sort of – who can really regret academic management…

But I will get back on the horse and ride it to the next obstacle, that’s my job (not a jockey, in case you were wondering) and I have commitments to fulfil and engagements in the diary – some of them are quite interesting – I just hope I can remember how to do it, it would make the whole process a good deal easier.


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