How do you know you have said what you wish to say?

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One of my piano students asked me this question some time ago: how do you know when a project is finished? I thought it was an excellent question, and also a very difficult one. To my knowledge, I have never been overtly taught this, nor have I heard a definite answer from history. Truthfully, I wonder if anyone can know the answer. Perhaps this is simply one of the great mysteries of creativity that will remain for the entirety of time? …


A common belief appears to exist regarding composers, and it is best described through an image inscribed in the memories of many. The image consists of a composer hunched over his desk. His wild gray hair betrays a chaotic mental state and evokes an image of the “tortured genius.” His deepest emotions, thoughts, and desires pour out through the ink as he weaves melody, harmony, and rhythm into a musical letter from soul to soul. The musical symbols fly onto the page without any apparent effort, carrying the creator as if he lives in a waking dream.

This image is…


The creative process is innately unpredictable. Many a creator can relate to the simultaneous frustration, elation, and “zany fun” that this produces. I have used many analogies to describe this: an archaeologist, a city, and a cat among them. I believe I have found another analogy that is aptly suited.

Creativity is like Chinese Checkers. If you are not familiar with the game, then I will briefly outline its rules (it is very simple).

For the sake of simplicity, let us suppose that there are two players (though the game can accommodate up to six). Each player begins with a…


In the music profession, advice related to the amount of practicing one must do each day abounds. One may have heard that it requires 10,000 hours of practice with an instrument to acquire a “virtuoso” level of skill with it. One may have also heard that several hours of practice per day are required; advice ranges from three to six hours, or even up to eight, depending upon the instrument in question.

There is no doubt that much practice is required to achieve mastery, and that few are willing to invest this much time in learning such a craft. It…


I am quite strange. My wife would most heartily agree (as would nearly everyone else who knows me). However, my strangeness within the musical community is of a different sort. Nearly every other composer I know begins a project by sitting down at a computer and inputting notes using a mouse and keyboard. Others record their ideas by playing them and recording them, using an electronic piano connected to their workstation. Yet others forego the notation entirely, opting to go straight into the digital audio software and record each track layer by layer. …


Many would likely hear my music and think it simple. They are correct; it is often exceedingly simple. Much of it sounds as though it was written in only a matter of days, or even in a single sitting, as though I were writing a letter. If one were to hear my latest project, they might believe it was written in mere hours. And indeed, I sometimes hear the question, “How long did that take you?”

For that project, the answer is, “Roughly four months.” The piece is less than fifteen minutes long. The melodies are simple, the structure of…


My readers may note the dearth of posts regarding creativity from me for the past several weeks. The reason for this is simple: I was composing a rather major musical work that took roughly four months. To meet the deadline, I had to put all other creative projects on hold (including blog posts) for the final month. I am happy with how the project turned out, but after completing it, I am rather exhausted. This fatigue led me to ponder the reason this occurs, and the place of rest in the creative professional’s life.

Why does one require rest after…


We have all experienced this. A project is “firing on all cylinders.” The “neighborhood cat” (our inspiration — our “muse,” if you’ll pardon the pun) has not only come to you, but is now spending every waking minute with you. You need scarcely bait him anymore, as he comes of his own accord and nearly never leaves. He wakes you up during the night demanding attention (you hear an idea in your mind and simply must write it down). Many creatives find this part of the process annoying, just as we might find such a creature annoying (though adorable). …


I have been writing a piece of music for some time that has brought no small amount of frustration. The creative process has fought me at every turn, each note being a battle within a seemingly never-ending creative war. This has happened before, and it will likely happen again. In fact, many creators seem to struggle with this at one time or another. Realizing this, I stepped back and asked, “If one of my students encountered this struggle, what advice would I give them?” …


Why, indeed, does my mind suddenly awake when the rest of me should be falling asleep? I have a theory. Most of the day, the part of my brain that deals with logic, following established procedures, and critique, is awake. It is quite useful, as it allows me to recall the proper way to do household chores, the correct way to spell a word, and the practical range of a given instrument so that I write music that is actually playable. However, creativity is often a challenge during this part of the day. It can take real effort to cause…

InnerOrchestra

Music, musings, and mental adventures. You may read my blog at www.InnerOrchestraBlog.com, or listen to my music here: https://soundcloud.com/user-559128116

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