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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Film Shoot and Compositional Sophistication...

Just a quick one before I'm off to bed. Things have worked out spectacularly with my hours at NY 1 this month. I counted up what I was scheduled for and realized I'd make rent easily but then I've gathered so many extra shifts on the fly that I think I may do a little better even. I was called in tomorrow to cover for someone who'll be out sick. Last week was a full 40 hours, plus holiday pay I hadn't accounted for originally and two days where I got a one hour meal incentive for not getting to take a break. I don't know if that hour is a fully paid hour or not. We'll see.

Here's some pictures from the film shoot the other day.

I'm really having a good time with these guys. And all the opportunities that are presenting themselves can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Occasionally, I feel like I'm not ready for some of them yet, like I'm not commercially viable yet. But then I remember that I'm working with a very rudimentary set up here one mic, a cheap Tascam preamp and a nominally powerful computer, a casio keyboard with a MIDI output and the guitars and amplifier that I have had since college and high school even. I have to get good at creating with those items first before I can hope to afford the really good equipment that professionals have. More than that though, it's really compositional sophistication that I'm after. A phrase that hit me like a brick wall my first year of grad school (mainly because the phrase was written in red ink on a piece of paper telling me that I had a distinct lack of it and that my professor was still waiting to see more of it from me).

It has taken me years since then to really come to grips with what that really means. But even still, it's an abstract concept that I couldn't articulate if you asked me to right now, except to say that I know it's what sets professional recording artists and film composers from myself with my meager set up and sometimes, to me, shameful lack of finished material. I think it's also something to do with being able to compose a line of music that is complete and lacks nothing, no matter if it's short or long, loud and boisterous or soft and pensive. The kind of music that sounds as though it always existed and merely manifested itself through you somehow. Not something that sounds contrived or incomplete. Not something that is still trying to figure out what it wants to be. Something that has always known what it was supposed to, how it was supposed to begin, swell in tempo or dynamics and gently fall away and cadence. Like the way a bird knows how to fly or a cat knows how to hunt. To be able to compose a piece of music that embodies all these ideas is to possess, or rather to express compositional sophistication. I think.

Me, I feel like this is so incredibly elusive a thing and working at it will probably consume my entire life. Maybe it's not something that you eventually find, the way some people suddenly find Jesus or their car keys. Maybe it's something that you build upon gradually, like a retirement account or a career. Slowly, patiently, accepting that it won't be perfect right away or that you might take steps backwards or stumble or you might howl in frustration and throw things. Maybe it's like that.

I find myself listening to my old stuff and thinking I need to move forward and change this or that or I hear it and think, "Did I write that? Why don't I write like that anymore?" (But of course, you never can, you have to keep moving forward). I also find myself working with new styles of music that someone wants me to write for them and, when it comes out sounding contrived, I grumble that I don't write this style of music and it's bound to sound uninspired and insipid even. But then, isn't the problem that I'm judging to early what I know takes time to improve upon? I know that I'm going to have years of writing Latin, Funk, Jazz, Rock, Electronic, Pop, Acoustic Rock, Classical and even Polka (if they need it) ahead of me to improve upon it. It's not impossible. It may not feel natural but it's part of my life. I chose to be a film composer and, while I will always write my own music and attempt to innovate however I can, being a film composer entails writing what someone else wants you to write. You can make it your own creature but if they say, "less 70s porno and more 90s hip hop," then that's what you have to do.

As for compositional sophistication, at least I know about where I need to be looking. When I start to write a melody, there's always that pure improvisational moment where nothing is telling me where to go except my fingers on the keyboard and the memory of every thing that came before it. After that, I have to take it somewhere and knowing where to take it is composing.

Anyway, I have to work at 8am tomorrow so I don't know what I'm still doing up typing this blog and getting all poetic. Good night.

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