I’m currently in an Artist’s Retreat, writing some music which will accompany a silent film. The film is about the area I live in – Dun Laoghaire, and my writing of the music for the film is being greatly helped by some great software that allows me to sync the music I’m writing to the film as I write it.
The composing of the music is going very well, and much to my disbelief, I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve been thinking about why this is – why is this going so well? Is it because it’s easier to write something for which you have a visual stimulus? Is it easier to write programmatic music than to write music in the abstract? Or am I just on a hot streak?
This is an interesting question for me, because for years I found it difficult to write programmatic music of any kind. I always wrote in the abstract and found any contemplation of a non-musical source to generate musical ideas to be next to impossible. And then gradually over the past five years I started to use extra-musical inspiration for pieces – birdsong for one piece, Haikus for another, audio-visual stuff for a third. With this piece I’m writing to the film, as we’ll be performing the music live, and so as I listen to the music I’ve written I can watch how it will interact with the visual information. So I start to ask myself, is the reason that the music is flying out of the electronic quill because I’m particularly inspired, or is it because some of my responsibility to make the music be as good as it can be is watered down a bit by the fact that the film is there to take up the slack, if slack there is? Would I be as happy with this music if there was no film to accompany it? Would I be writing it so quickly if there was no film to write to? Hmmmmmm....................
Jim McNeely: Barefoot Dances
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