Last week I began a new composition – alto sax and guitar, for the wonderful Duo Cuypers/Lop, who will be traveling from Spain to the US in April for a tour. Even though I just finished a new work last month that will be performed very soon indeed, I sat at my desk last week and found myself gripped by an all too familiar sensation that rears it’s ugly head at the very beginning stages of writing; that I have completely, utterly forgotten how to compose music. It says, now how do you do this again? Then I pull out a couple of my own scores, flip through them and wonder, how did I even make that?! What was I thinking? The memory of the process is erased.
Apparently this feeling is more common amongst composers than one might suppose, and a few have recently spoken and written candidly about the experience. It is definitely comforting to know that this is a shared quirk!
So what to do? Fortunately this phase of the process has become familiar, so I know it won’t last long, and I have a little to-do list I consult that helps smooth over that bump and jump-start the creation of material. Basically I give that feeling a polite nod, strap on the composing boots, and get moving!
Oh, and I also remember one of my favorite quotes from Picasso:
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.