My head is always whirling with music. For a long time, I assumed that was true for everyone, but it’s really one of those phenomena we can describe to one another without ever being sure we are experiencing the same thing.
What I constantly hear is sounds combining and recombining, heading off in simultaneous different directions, merging together again as something completely different. Typically, a single sonority heard in real life turns into an endless stream of variants as it bounces around my skull. Maybe that happens to everyone, I don’t know.
As a Composition Professor, I have occasion to assign my students to write for various ensembles. Working with them on their music always gets my head into a particular sound world, and the whirling begins.
I’ve been working with one of my students this fall on a piece that uses an ensemble I’ve never composed for. Carefully guiding his efforts, I’ve found myself caught again and again in sonority overload, as the music he is writing diverges from what’s going on in my mind.
Last week I sat down and wrote a piece of my own for this ensemble. It turned out beautifully. I could easily organize a premiere for it, but in doing so I would run the risk of taking rehearsal time away from my student or possibly showing him up, which I don’t want to do. So, the piece goes into a folder and waits for a more opportune time.
Just one problem: I’m always focused on whatever piece I’m working on, which means I sometimes forget about pieces that I’ve written in the past, especially ones that have never been performed, so putting a piece in a folder for later sometimes consigns it to oblivion. I have, by this time, quite a few folders full of that kind of thing.
Fortunately, plenty of the whirling in my head ends up in compositions that people play, so these “lost” compositions aren’t anything like a serious tragedy — more like a droll joke at the expense of my creative time.