Welcome To Life As A Composer

"Whatever you are, be a good one." - Abraham Lincoln

Today was the most intense workday I've probably ever had as a composer. One of the pieces I'm putting on my composition recital on April 20th is a large ensemble work for 10 performers. The piece wasn't finished yet, so I dedicated this weekend to hardcore composing so that I could finish it, and then finish getting my student players and start rehearsing sometime next week.

I got a late start, and I had to take care of some other stuff in the late morning/early afternoon. So I got to school (as I required a practice room, for the keyboard) and started composing around 3:30. As I later explained to Mike and Eleanor, when I set aside time for composing like that, I get really intense about it--I focus all my attention exclusively on the music, and I hardly take any breaks (even when I stop to take a bathroom break, my mind is still intensely focused on the piece I'm working on). I worked like that for 3 solid hours, until 6:30, at which point I was completely mentally burned out. I drove back to the apartment, ate some dinner, watched part of a video with Mike and met two of his friends who came over. Then I knew I needed to get back to work. I've discovered in the past that I tend to work better when someone else is around--even if we're not interacting; for example, if I'm composing and they're studying. So I called Eleanor, and headed over to her apartment, since her roommate Andrea has a full-size keyboard that she allows me to use. I got there around 8:30 and started working around 9; then with a 15 minute break to talk to Eleanor before she went to sleep, I finished around 1:15 a.m.

So I worked for a total of about 7 hours today. In that 7 hours, I wrote about 60 measures of the piece (keep in mind that each measure contains parts for 10 different instruments). This equates to approximately 4 minutes' worth of music. So it took me 7 hours to write 4 minutes. Which is actually pretty much par for the course; professional film composers (like John Williams or Danny Elfman) usually write between 3 and 5 minutes of music in a typical workday.

The remaining 3 minutes of the piece should be easier, as I'm reprising much of the material from the first two sections. I figure another 3 to 4 hours tomorrow afternoon and I should be able to finish it. If that's correct, then all told I will have spent about 18 hours composing a 10-minute piece. Add to that the time I'll spend putting it into the computer and formatting the score, and I will have spent about 25 hours on it.

Welcome to my world.


Raelynn said...

You crazy composers! Thats really funny... cause I wasn't there, I was at Sean's sitting around while he composed. How cute.

Jessica said...

wow.that's intense.

ECC's Mom said...

Every movie I have watched lately I notice the soundtrack more than I usual and I say to myself...A.J. can do this?
I'm impressed.

ECC's mom-CORRECTION said...

That should read "more than usual"