Many many times I realize that I go about doing things without knowing exactly what I’m doing. After the fact, I sometimes have one of those “Oh yeah! THAT is what I was up to!” moments. I had one of those moments last week. These moments have everything to do with me being an intuitive person… I get this from my mother, who is the most incredibly intuitive person I know.
This moment involves a saxophone quartet I composed during the first part of the year. The piece is titled “freehand, jot” which I want to consider two pieces in a collection, and not two movements of the same piece.
For a while, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I was doing with “freehand.” I could never coherently explain to my professor why I was writing what I was writing… however, he loved the music. I love it too, but still am very nervous about putting it out there for public consumption. The ol’ premieres concert is approaching soon and I want to put some music on! So, I found a sax quartet made up of graduate students at MSU to perform it. Putting it together for the quartet made me reexamine what I wrote months ago.
I figured it out. I can finally explain what I was doing in hindsight.
Here it goes:
“freehand” is made up of a chromatic collection of 5 pitch-classes. That’s it. No more, no less. I was simply giving myself an exercise of using very little pitch material to create a piece. Also, no melodies allowed! I write melodies… all the time… I can only think of one piece (post-minimal) that doesn’t have a tune of some sort.
So that’s it… I was simply giving myself a compositional exercise I’ve never tried before. I used rhythm, timbre, intensity, density and TEXTURE to shape the form. Then I realized exactly why I was playing around with the title “freehand.” In high school I quickly realized that I would never become a visual artist. Sitting in Art I, I spent hours on freehand line drawing exercises. The lines would start out straight, but they immediately began to wobble and contort into a drunken path down the page. I had to come to terms with the devastating news… I couldn’t draw straight lines! Most people can’t. I am one of them. This is not essential to all forms of visual art, but I immediately knew that I simply did not have the technique for it. I mean, who wants to become an artist anyway?
This also took me back to the times in elementary school. Many times I would get the red pen of death on top of the page marked -5…. handwriting. Sorry if my nervous system isn’t good enough for you Ms. Teacherperson. Another afterthought: I can barely read my own handwriting most of the time.
Anyways, the music reminded me of those painstaking exercises I endured in high school. My hand would cramp. I feverishly erased lines and tried again. Still the end results were be a sad lines that would veer from their paths of infinity. This is like me veering from the path of trying to become an artist. I still dabble… I’m a hobbyist… by the way… the cool banner on my website… I painted that.