February 9, 2013 by wandalusst
Well, a lot, really. Greetings, fellow TTFO travellers. I have been thinking a lot about creativity as my own creative process continues. Since the extraordinary experience of being part of TTFO’s creative development process late last year, I have been re-working some of the music in the play proper, and thinking about, and then writing, some more music for Swansong!!! (the oratorio-as-coda; please note that those three exclamation points are incredibly important). Five new pieces in Swansong are in development, mostly written during my holiday break over the December/January period; it’s such a buzz, really. Both scary and exhilarating.
Our illustrious playwright, Peta Murray, certainly sets a challenge for her creative collaborators. It is wonderful to have a playwright who has such clarity about the vision she has for her work; the challenge for the creative collaborator (like her composer) is to both realise that vision and also, in some way, contribute her own voice to the process. So, what is the creative process for me?
Firstly, I do have to love it. And I am. And I do. I love Peta Murray’s words. I love her inter-weaving themes. I love the way her mind works. I love what she is saying. I love the fact that I am part of a work that is, amongst other things, about women’s voices being heard. And about the ‘rights’ of Late Bloomers to create and have their own voice. As I set her words to music I am, without exception, moved by them. Whether they are funny, poignant, thoughtful, outrageous, touching or just plain intelligent – they never fail to move me. In the setting of her words, for me they become stronger and deeper. And more affecting.
Secondly, I need to look at what Peta Murray would describe as the architecture of the work. For Swansong the work is divided into a range of songs and ‘recitatives’, or passages that move the story forward. Some of this was clear to me in how to set the text by the way the text is presented; other times it was less clear. I look at an overarching balance of style, key and feel. I mean, you can’t have a funky piece followed by a funky piece followed by a funky piece, or a ballad followed by a ballad followed by a ballad all in the key of C major, can you? Well, of course you could, but the arc of the narrative, in both text and music, and then the associated differentiating styles of approach, is important to me. I look at keys, time-signatures, feel, instrumentation, melodic shape, texture. Sometimes the music comes quickly; other times it takes much musing over the text to find my way into it, into its rhythm and sound-scape; what that feel should be.
And then after a piece is written, it needs to be reviewed. Time and time again. The scariest thing for me is when I hit the ‘send’ button and send a new piece to our playwright for her views. Given we work really well together, and we have an agreement to be completely honest and respectful with each other in terms of our feedback, that shouldn’t be so scary, but there is always a vulnerable part of an artist that kicks in at that moment. There is also another part of me, when I strongly believe in a new work, that knows its strength. Some pieces almost come out fully formed; other pieces need a lot of revision, re-writing, or even ‘letting go’. And the feedback from Peta Murray, whose baby this is, is vital. The joy of the creative development process last year for me was to hear the music come alive, with our wonderful Quire, actors, musicians and musical director; the greatest music software can never take away the importance of live performance in realising your vision. That’s how you test what is working, and what isn’t. That’s how you really understand whether your vision for this piece comes across through your creation and arrangement of it. And then to see how co-director Robin Laurie might set the ‘movement’ of the actors to the music… another wonderful thing indeed.
Music has been my passion since I was a small girl, when I first listened to my grand-mother play the piano on her visits, and when I first realised I could ‘pick out’ a tune on the piano. I have come to my own creativity late in life, a ‘Late-Bloomer’, as TTFO would say. It is only part of my life, as my paid job is in another arena; but it is my passion. The arts have always been my passion, and now my own music and creative process is part of that.
Roll on, TTFO. Be true to yourself! Power to our collective elbow!