Paint You a Symphony

Paint You a Symphony

Aside from one day this past week when fellows from the German Academy came here to play a soccer re-match (we won!), my Rome experience has been relegated to the studio.

At a certain point while writing this Stendhal Syndrome trio, I realized that the usual way that I compose (jot down musical ideas on music paper two weeks before deadline, begin to panic, start composing directly into a music notation program) wasn’t working. So I found a scroll of paper—30 feet long, 4 feet high—and decided to fill it with drawings, sketches, music, words, etc., in a linear way, from left to right. The idea was that when I finished filling the whole thing up, I would be done with the piece. Only then—when I had a clear picture of where, when, and how events would occur—would I sit down at the computer and translate the piece into traditional notation for the performers.

Honestly, I wasn’t thinking of Kerouac when I decided to do it. In fact, the scroll of paper was already in my studio, which leads me to wonder if the last composer to reside in the Casa Rustica, Andrew Norman, may have done the same thing.

As of yesterday, I’ve finished, and now I have a visual object which represents a sound object that has yet to be realized. I didn’t try, nor do I have an ounce of the artistic ability required, to do anything fancy with this—it’s simply a useful way to see everything at once, to literally walk from the beginning to the end.

A gallerista looked at it and expressed interest in selling it for far more than I received for the actual music commission. What are composers doing with their manuscripts these days? If they’re not already doing so, I would suggest that we all start hawking ’em.

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One thought on “Paint You a Symphony

  1. bluecee

    I used a similar technique to sketch out some voice parts when I had no manuscript paper at hand, during a choral director conference. I used jagged lines, left to right, to represent the approximate intervals and rhythmic patterns.

    Similarly, I take business drives through the AZ desert, during which I have tried off and on to compose phrases that are analogues to the outlines of the mountains, or to the interplay of colors between sky, plants and earth.


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