Megan Ihnen was worried. Getting mired in small tasks without a big vision kept her incessantly “busy” but accomplishing very little until she felt completely burnt out. In the end, it wasn’t self-care and motivational Pinterest quotes that recharged her, but something much more direct: the inspiration and productivity that can naturally follow audacious (but clearly defined!) goals.
Flow: it’s that magical place when we are “in the zone” and operating at peak creativity—we’re focused, our mind is quiet, we’re working with a marvelous ease and time seems to disappear. How can we set ourselves up to get to the flow state more consistently?
I’ve found this to be true again and again: get past the difficulty of starting by simply starting. How to do that looks different every time, so there’s no secret trick to it. The only consistency is that starting is the transition from merely thinking about composing to actually composing.
Doing our best work demands that we get past the voices of our fears, self-limiting beliefs, and self-defeating assumptions. What has helped you?
Somewhere in the homestretch of writing a new composition, I become convinced—temporarily, falsely—that not only is there nothing redeemable about this awful piece, but that composing itself is meaningless, I’ve committed myself to a worthless career, and I’m a bad composer.
Whether it’s a new piece we’re writing, a work we’re learning, an ensemble we’re launching, or a fundraising campaign we’re spearheading, let’s look at what helps us to bring our best and get the work done.
NewMusicBox’s Creative Productivity Theme Week starts here! Join us for a special 5-day challenge to help you boost your artistic output and make the new year your best yet.
The distinguished, soon-to-be nonagenarian composer Thea Musgrave is one of the music world’s great raconteurs. Her numerous anecdotes about everyone from her one-time teacher Nadia Boulanger to electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram to Aaron Copland, with whom she studied briefly at Tanglewood, are full of take away value for other composers or, for that matter, anyone else dedicated to an artistic pursuit since at the root of all of Musgrave’s anecdotes is a deep sense of practicality. But that doesn’t mean she believes in avoiding risk-taking, as she explains.
We can’t bring back the cheap rent, abundant loft spaces, and free time that helped us to form our own independent ensembles, but we do have the internet. Music is who we are, and we must keep fighting for our right to create it.
or: How I learned to stop worrying and love Zuckerberg’s machine. As with other areas in the many realms of public discourse these days, there are times when, for me, taking a gander at the old quotidian chit-chat stream on Facebook has just become unbearable. It’s OutrageBook in these trying times, or LookAtMeWinningBook, which it’s… Read more »
The past year has been extraordinary for me. I didn’t imagine that my piece Likely Pictures in Haphazard Sky would have an interesting life beyond The Yale Philharmonia’s December concert. But in February 2017, I learned that I had been chosen to participate in the American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Readings and later in the spring, I received an invitation to attend the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute.
This post was originally written for the Salastina Music Society, ahead of their premiere of Derrick Spiva Jr.’s American Mirror string quartet on October 7, 2017. The text has been reworked with the assistance of Kim Nguyen Tran for NewMusicBox and reposted with permission, along with a video of the performance. The original post can… Read more »
What is American classical music? Does classical music have something meaningful to say in this conversation about being American? Derrick Spiva decided to write a string quartet to shed light on the America that he has experienced, and that quickly sent him on a much bigger journey than he anticipated.
My mentors have all provided me with invaluable words of wisdom, both practical and artistic. But they have never been a 26-year-old female composer trying to build a career in the United States in 2017.
Though I was relieved of the notion that I might earn my living making the music I make long ago, the idea still obviously dominates our culture, and as our own personal economic and social pressures grow over the years, it can be tough to stay focused on music and to continue composing.
Five years after Carter has left us as a human presence, it is time to assess his continuing musical presence in the still-young 21st century.
What would happen if we gave ourselves to people instead of ideologies? What would happen if we measured our success not by the quantity of people who see us, but by the depth of the experience we have shared? Elliot Cole is back to push further on questions at the intersection of music, personal meaning, and professional success.
Much of composing is just like any other skill or ability: you study, practice, and improve. Learning how instruments work and what is idiomatic is a long process that involves a lot of trial and error. Every rehearsal and performance experience compels me to reexamine what and how I write.
Given where we are today, what options actually are there for a composer with a more independent, unaffiliated profile?
Now that the fifth anniversary of Elliott Carter’s passing is upon us (he died on Nov 5, 2012), there’s been no push to rename the exit signs at Symphony Hall, but neither has there been universal canonization. The case of Elliott Carter stands apart from the usual pattern of posthumous appraisals, not least because Carter lived to within a few weeks of his 104th birthday, and kept composing almost to the end.
The process of writing and revising Likely Pictures in Haphazard Sky for orchestra has been transformative for my writing.
Showcasing the breadth of new music creation around the country in a way that promotes artists and develops audiences is the driving mission behind event pages.
Being a “mid-career” composer can be a somewhat confusing designation, but it has Dan Joseph asking some hard questions: If I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, will an actual career eventually develop? Do I keep plugging away with a defined style and identity in hopes of finding some form of conventional success, or do I keep exploring new ideas and interests without regard for being noticed or recognized?
There have been many composers who have been deeply engaged with literature. Perhaps the most famous examples are Anthony Burgess and Paul Bowles, whose novels overshadow their nevertheless formidable achievements in musical composition. While composer Christopher Cerrone has not written any original prose fiction or poetry, at least not that he’s shared with the outside… Read more »