44 Considerations for Young Composers

1. Stop listening to what everything/everyone seems to be saying.

2. Then start listening again whenever.

3. Spend lots of time doing whatever you like doing.

4. Forget about everything you learned sometimes.

5. Make music that only your cat likes.

6. Music can be the wrong place to look sometimes.

7. You are very powerful.

8. You are very tiny.

9. You are perfect.

10. You are making a difference.

11. As an experiment stop trying to do the thing that you've been expecting yourself to do.

12. If you aren't doing anything you are still a composer.

13. Don't write a score for a piece that doesn't have a score just because the grant application says you have to have a score. (You might suggest that they read Varese's "The Liberation of Sound" 1936)

14. Don't take the rhythm out of your piece because "contemporary music isn't supposed to have rhythm."

15. Don't put a pulse in your piece because you think no one will listen to it otherwise.

16. Whatever your parents think about your music is fine.

17. If your significant other won't listen to your piece all the way through it doesn't mean that he/she is not right for you.

18. Read "Noise" by Jaques Attali

19. Read "The Rest is Noise" by Alex Ross

20. Music bloggers have a disturbing appetite for live and recorded music, and you shouldn't feel like you have to keep up. In fact, just don't read them unless you really like the feeling it gives you.

21. Go to the library sometimes.

22. Listen to the city.

23. Take a walk.

24. Eat local vegetables.

25. Consider the semiotics/social impact/evolution/formal structures/psychological effects of recording technology.

26.Try to imagine that sonic art (music) is the non-linguistic expression (explanation) of an infinitude of things that happened, are happening, and that will happen.

27. Grant yourself permission to write the future of humanity's organizational efforts in all areas.

28. Work with the assumption that your music has a massive capacity to achieve transformative results.

29. Consider quantity over quality.

30. Allow yourself to keep everything and forget everything.

31. If you want to say "I hate music and I'm going to do something else" just say it.

32. If you went to a conservatory it doesn't mean that you are letting someone down if you:
a. Don't notate your music.
b. Do something different entirely
c. Put down the instrument you practiced for your entire life and only play an instrument you barely know how to play.
d. Never practice.
e. Have a healthy skepticism (disrespect) for all the crap you learned in conservatory.

33. If you didn't go to a conservatory you don't need to "go back to school" and refer to 9.

34. If you are currently in a conservatory don't take yourself so seriously, remember that you are learning inside a specific institutional dynamic (point of view), and refer to 9.

35. Specify failure. Generalize success.

36. All rejected applications are valuable gifts, the summed value of which will purchase tremendous acceptance in the future.

37. When you don't get the grant you will doubt yourself. When you get the grant you will be proud of yourself and then doubt yourself. All of that is fine.

38. Be wary of out dated and newly minted sonic and musical moralities.

39. Be wary of composers and teachers trash talking "Pop Music" if they aren't referring to specific artists or musical currents. It's entirely possible that they don't know what they are talking about.

40. Be wary of the cult of the "new."

41. Be cautious fixating on new technologies just because they are new. Consider letting your musical imagination guide you to the technology that will aid in the realization of the imagined sounds.

42. Think about what caveman music might have sounded like, and what purpose it might have served.

43. Send your music to your middle school music teacher. I bet he/she will be really happy you did.

44. Make more music. We need it.

I wrote this piece in response to Annie Gosfield's Article for the New York Times website entitled "Advice for Young Composers."


Unknown said...

I love this!

Alberto de Icaza said...

brilliant Ces! you should share this with cat 410!

ola said...

hey there:) I'm student of Music Tech and Peformance in Leicester. i loved your statement. I'm going to work on mine with my daughter :)