Photo by Brian Grosam

The creative process, setting words to music, the muse and the clock.

Setting words to music is a joyful and yet agonizing process for me.  I cannot set words that do not resonate with some part of me:  I  have not been able to write meaningful music for a stranger.  It also helps if I know the poet.

There are poems  which grab me- as soon as I see them, I can hear the singer’s voice in my mind’s ear.  I use that as a starting point.  Within each poem is a set of rules, a built-in framework.  It’s a matter of going past this initial rapture of hearing the first emergence of the work, and discovering the hidden logic of the poem.

While I usually get the first 70% or so of the tune right away, the other crucial details must be taken care of.  I have to live with it, let the song rattle around in my brain, read and reread the poem , looking for the  inner logic .       It takes as long as it takes .  There are no shortcuts , and I have to  go through this tedious part until I am done.

It’s best if the singer gets to try it out for spin- it’s easier change the shape if the piece does not fully dry…

While I would love to say that composing music is total great inspirational rapture, there are plenty of tedious moments to wade through.  The real joy is when the performers connect with your work.  That makes it all worthwhile.


Vermillion River, August 2011

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