An observation of the creative process
Early last week i found myself in my favorite coffee shop vocalizing a drum riff in 5/4 (actually, i think it was 10/8). It was pretty groovy. i kept some small attention to it during the week.
A shift in thinking...
On Sunday, the day after i abstain for 24 hours from ingesting stimulants, as my espresso began taking effect i noticed a sensation of feeling 'kicked in the head'. i had a general sense of difficulty with analytic thought. This seemed to open up a space for musical ideation.
The space to respond...
A moment of inactivity, or freedom from immediately pressing obligations, presented itself on Sunday and i pulled out my Ghanaian antelop skin hand drum to work out different variations/arrangements of the drum riff that had appeared earlier.
The future pulling the present toward it...?
i should also say that during the week i sensed the possibility of interpreting the essence of the riff as an arpeggio. Something happened with the little ones and the drumming. i can't remember, but i found myself moving to get a stringed instrument.
Who or what makes the choices...?
A moment of choice presented itself because all during the week i could feel double course strings (as in my octave mandolin or my 12-string) under my fingers when i sensed the possibility of this arpeggio. But, when i started down the stairs to my studio i suddenly felt the strings of my Martin under my hands, and this was the instrument i picked up.
Before i had picked it up i had interpreted the essence of the drum tones as specific notes and so had the propulsive arpeggio the of the piece pretty quickly. i remember some difficulty with the second half of the line -- i kept twisting it around and playing the second part first.
One thing leads to another...
Then, i immediately had a middle part. i could hear it and my fingers grabbed it and i had the essence of the part right away.
i remember being called upstairs to attend to something with the kids. On one of the trips up or down some flight of stairs i found myself singing the melody. When i got back downstairs i worked it out on the guitar -- thank god for the 5ths tuning! i needed all that range for this melody.
Weaving between the raindrops...
Stani and the kids and i went out to take my eldest son, Max, back to his mother's house and to get the kids out of the house. i think before that i was able to steal about 10 minutes to enter the notes -- one at a time -- into the free music notation editor, lime, for the arpeggio and middle bit.
When we got back i spent about an hour laboriously notating the melody and balancing it against the timing of the arpeggio and the middle bit. i stopped and put the kids to bed. i remember sitting with my back to the pillow sensing and hearing the beginning notes of the break. Then i put Stani to bed. Then, around midnight, i came down to complete the process.
Image and struggle...
Something interesting happened in the second phase of work. i found the metaphor of the glass slipper and the Cinderella story attaching itself to the voices -- wait -- actually this started when i opened lime for the first time. It wanted me to name the first voice and the image of the glass slipper came up and the first arpeggio was MiceToHorses. Then the middle bit was PumpkinToCarriage. Then when i was notating the melody it was BeforeMidnight.
In the second phase of work this metaphor began to exercise a function and suggested more of the break -- i wanted and was hearing something like a princess entering a ball. i'm sure this all sounds remarkably pedestrian and time-worn. But, the experience was remarkably fresh and free and vivid for me.
There was also a kind of tension going on inside me. When the initial tonal impulses came it was very much from my interpretation of an African -- specifically Malian -- melodic sensibility. i was thinking/feeling/sensing folk music, folk music, folk music -- it's a voice i sense as rising up to the vaulted cathedral of the African sky. Then when the Cinderella images started happening there was this sense of Russian art music of a different century pushing against the sensation of the African voices i was hearing in my head.
Out of this tension grew the transposition from C (really G mixolydian) to C harmonic minor. This transposition was also being connected in my nervous system to the post-midnight Cinderella transformation: the whole horses-back-to-mice-carriage-back-to-pumpkin thing.
Completion... and a chance to begin again...
At the cusp of the decision to leave it ending on the low C of the harmonic minor section i knew that the return to the original figure -- with the arpeggio and middle bit phase shifted -- was the glass slipper finding its way onto the proper foot. This morning i am contemplating the sanctity of wish and how Cinderella tells us a little about the story of wish and the way it works in our lives.
(Email me for a copy of the midi file to hear the composition)