Thursday, July 31, 2008



I realize that this all starts to sounds a bit negative, and god forbid, a little too self-conscious. What happened to fun? But I hate hot, humid weather; sitting at the piano while thunder rumbles around in the distance, making the dog listless, threatening but never fulfilling its promise of rain and a cool breeze. You keep playing five chords over and over again, hoping they'll sound a bit different the each time; listening to them , moving the voices around, sometimes holding the pedal down and trying to catch something in the decaying outline of the upper harmonics. You can almost hear it - maybe the next time, when you re-order them once again, and then try to remember the grouping that seemed to work in retrospect five minutes ago, especially compared to the crap you're hearing at the moment. So I take the five chords, derived from a pitch group, and try to do something interesting (?) with them. They occur first here, and then start to evolve into a spine of what they might become.

Pare down the possibilities and listen. Then try to imagine them off the piano, on something else, say strings, with some kind of shape. Visualize the shape, as if in space, as a physical gesture, like a dancer. And what happened to the pulse? There was one when I started all this; we always get hung up on notes, piling them up, great vertical cumulonimbi of static, lifeless harmony. As Cage said, rhythm is the most fundamental structural element, but when you read about music it's either about the notes, or even further removed from the original problem, the text.

I love writing music - it's the end result of the whole process that's the problem. You wouldn't think so.

The morning had started well: making new floor for the porch; no power tools - just a pencil, a saw and a t-square, strong coffee and birdsong. Every now and then there was a quick spattering of thick raindrops, almost like someone flicking drops from wet laundry across a wall. Drag everything inside, but it doesn't rain. And the whole time, hearing those stupid chords you played for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, and will again today. Ideas come and go, and you know you'll have forgotten them by the time you stop for a hunk of bread and cheese at noon.

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