My friend Brynn Baron
is a very talented writer and actor. We work together in Playback Theater. She recently posted on her Facebook page:
An engaging conversation followed this comment, including comments like "keep writing, and edit it later" and "cliches are part of the process." One person even noted that her metaphor about the soccer fans was completely original, not cliche at all!
I can TOTALLY relate to Brynn's comment. That's part of the reason I created 52 Ideas
. Any time I would compose before this year, I would get frustrated that what came out sounded so much like someone else's music, or like something I had written before. Or sometimes the work would evolve to the point that I would just start playing and singing the song I already knew....thus ending any originality for the day.
My thought this year while I've been composing goes like this: if it sounds cliche, go ahead and write it. If it's showing up in my head, it clearly needs to come out, so let it. And there's always next week! I've got 52 chances to write something original!
So I'd like to take this moment to honor my favorite cliches! NONE of us can escape our influences and musical history. As much as I wish some of these influences weren't here, they are part of me. So I'd like to show them some love. Influence: Chris Rice
Chris Rice is a very established Christian Contemporary singer-songwriter. He is here to represent the years and years and years of time I have spent sitting in church singing. Church was where I began singing when I was a toddler. Probably more than half of the time spent singing in my life has been in church as a church member, choir member, soloist, and finally years and years of being a worship leader. Chris Rice is my cliche fall guy for all other Christian Contemporary and Praise and Worship music that is rolling around in my head, including Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, Bebo Norman, etc.
Yes, this one is obvious. I went to college and grad school to learn opera, and it stuck. I have performed for years as an opera singer, and at some point along the way my brain (falsely) learned that this was the "best" way to sing. Of course, I love opera and continue to sing it all the time. But I want to use my voice in other ways, too. If you listen closely to any original song I've written, you'll notice it starts out in a kind of medium vocal range, then in time my voice just starts to ascend higher and higher. I LOVE the epic and dramatic nature of operatic singing.
Influence: Choral Music
In my professional singing career, I've spent a lot of time singing classical choral music. Subsequently, I've begun to really enjoy the sound of people singing together. I love the blend of human voices and the way each voice is unique, yet we combine into a unified whole. This is, of course, in spite of years in school being told that choral music was bad for my voice and that I should focus on being a solo singer. Well - sorry college professors! - I sing choral music! And I like it. :)
That brings us to this guy:
Influence: Eric Whitacre
I don't know why Eric Whitacre's music feels like a guilty pleasure. He's one of the most successful classical composers today, and he's written so much music. He also created the Virtual Choir, which is a really beautiful concept where people from all over the world sing together via Youtube. But "serious" classical musicians are afraid of commercial success, I think. Alas, I love the sound, and it wants to creep into everything I write. His music is crunchy and harmonically dense. Eric also represents a few other composers of similar ilk in my mind, like Morten Lauridsen and Rene Clausen.
So those are probably some of the biggest "friends" that keep showing up in my writing time.
When I think of being a COMPOSER, the picture that comes to my head is this:
Mad Scientist Composer
This is an image that really freaks me out. I don't want to be some sort of mad scientist alone in a room working on my "masterpiece". People would say, "He's so brilliant! But he just gets in that room and forgets to eat and bathe and becomes so antisocial. What a savant!" LOL!
I am social by nature and interactive. And I'm much better on my feet and moving than sitting still. Perhaps in some ways I'm less of a composer and more of an improvisor. I need to DO IT, not just think it.
The other image I'm haunted with is this:
This is the classic struggling singer-songwriter, spending his life recording his own music and attempting to hawk it off to people at bars, coffeeshops, and anywhere people will listen. Without major support from a label or a killer online presence, this just feels like a labor of love, without a lot of return. And I'm pretty sure the music I write is "bigger" than this - musically speaking. I'm not one to create intimate, living room music. My nature is more epic.
So I'm ready to create a new definition of what "composer" means to me. I am ready to claim a new identity for myself.
These are some of the identities that want to emerge.
Emerging Identity: Recording Artist
As a classical musician, I sort of feel like an accomplished film photographer who never learned to use a digital camera. I know my music theory inside and out, I can make microscopic adjustments musically in a performance situation, and I hear really nuanced details in music. (All of this comes in handy as a music teacher, of course!) But when it comes to recording technology, I'm such a novice. Did you say condensor mic...Phantom power...Signal chain...Huh? I'm attempting to learn more from this vast field. I'm also trying to let go of being perfect, and just using the skills and technology I have available to me.
In a related category:
Emerging Identity: Electronic Musician
I love electronic music. Digital media brings endless possibilities of sound. I could spend hours just tinkering around with the drum loops and sounds I can use in Garage Band. I have hesitancy around this identity, too, because it seems reserved for the "cool kids". Also, I can see the price tag adding up on the equipment and software and education required to get good at this.
Emerging Identity: Producer
I am a little hesitant to even include this one, because it seems like such a pipe dream. I have this dream of producing large scale performance events, epic and grand in nature. These performances would incorporate a good number of the influences I've just written about. But...how? When? Where? I know it's there inside me, but it's hard to see the steps to get there.
Emerging Identity: Ringleader
As I mentioned above, I'm a social creature. I'm not always a fan of the musical environment that divides the "creators" from the "observers." We are all creators and we are all innately musical. I want to create and write and express myself, but I also long to be a space-holder for others to be creative. I want an environment where I can create, and others can immediately respond with their own expressive ideas, right in the moment.
For now, I'll just keep writing new music every week. Onward and upward!