2018 Open/Close Choral Consortium
Third Update: Faster
I'm sometimes asked how long it takes me to write a piece, and the answer varies. No matter what I'm writing, chances are the piece has been taking shape in my head for much longer than the part of the process where I'm sitting down at the piano and the computer to write down notes.
All of this is to say: I've been working on Faster on and off for months in sketches at the piano and in my head, but the actual notation of the piece in Sibelius, my notation program, will happen in December. In November, I've been mostly working on an orchestra piece due December 1 (as I write this, that's tomorrow!). Both pieces will get done; somehow, everything always gets done.
Here's the current sketch for the music of Faster:
Click the above image to magnify the score & take a closer look.
Unfortunately I can't play you the current incarnation of this piece as it exists in my head, but I can play you a bit of the chorus on the piano. Though this piece doesn't really sound like a pop song, I've been thinking of the music in terms of verse, chorus, and bridge as I compose. To your right is a short recording of the chorus of Faster in its current draft.
While piano is sufficient for composing most of the time, there's going to be a lot more happening in each of the individual vocal lines here, and that's impossible to capture with just ten fingers!
What if we want it all now?
What if we want it to happen as quickly as possible,
as if there isn't enough time
What is we're not willing to wait
What if we're ready
What if it's finally happening
The text for Faster has evolved from the few sentence fragments to your left. This is how most of my writing (essays or texts) begins: with fragments hastily written on paper or in the Notes app on my phone.
This text is still evolving, and as with Closer to Home, I've learned that this is the beauty of writing your own text; the text can evolve in real time, along with the music. The word "faster" is going to play a crucial role in driving this piece forward.
The story behind Faster comes from what prompted me to write this essay. For so much of my life, I've wanted for my career and other elements of my life to move, well, faster. I've been rounding up my age; I've wanted success to come quicker than it did. In recent years, I've learned to temper this impulse with patience and to be grateful for what's happening in the present moment. Still, I thought that yearning for more than what you have--wanting the world to open up to you, and for that to happen as soon as possible--could form the basis of this new piece.
I began writing Faster before Closer to Home, but as you can tell from the previous updates, I finished Closer first. The SATB arrangement of that one is nearly done.
So often when I'm composing, I think of this quote I once read in an interview with video-game composer Jesper Kyd: "My rule of thumb," he says, "is that if my latest score is not my favorite, I am doing something wrong and not improving myself."
I usually feel the same way. I know when I have time (in just a few days!) to fully dive back into Faster, I'll probably end up liking it even more than Closer to Home, even though right now it's the other way around. When both pieces are done and I've moved on to the next piece in my schedule (a twenty-minute piece for soprano & chamber ensemble), that may turn into my new favorite thing I've written. Either way, I love the work I do, and no matter what piece I'm writing, or how quickly "success" comes for any given piece, I'm lucky and grateful that I get to make music for a living.
Three of the choruses from Faster,
from the current draft of the piece:
What if I want to go faster?
What if I want it all now?
What if I want the unknown world to open wide?
What if I want more than exactly on time?
What if I'm ready to own what's mine?
What if I want to go faster?
When will it happen for me?
Even if I had all the answers,
what would I want them to be?
What if I want more than barely getting by?
What if I'm ready to do more than try?
Maybe it's already happening;
maybe it's not up to me.
Maybe the answers are already here, ones I can't see.
Maybe it's happening, although I don't know how:
maybe the whole world is opening up to me now.
The final update on both pieces is here.