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Doing things differently

Photograph of pianist
(photo courtesy of Jason Lyle Black)

During a recent conversation with colleagues, chatting about compositional process, it dawned on me that as creators we all have very unique and personal ways of working. Whilst finding a comfortable and productive creative method is a great benefit, it is perhaps all too easy to slip into continually using the same approach and potentially miss out on other perspectives and inspirations.
Personally, after I’ve got a project in mind, I’ll start with handwritten sketches and fragments, using a combination of ideas worked out in my head, or on the piano, to begin developing the piece. Usually, I’ll stick with pencil and manuscript paper until I’ve got a working draft, and then move on to notation programs to tidy the score up, followed by testing and evaluation with a sequencer. And so on…
One of my colleagues was surprised, they much preferred to save time and energy by working directly within a notation program, such as Sibelius, creating sketches as they went. Another found that working directly into a sequencer was most rewarding for them, by creating a rough sketch of a piece using sounds and then transferring to a notation system if needed.
Of course, a lot of how you work depends on what the end product needs to be, a choir may require a score yet a film maker may require only audio. However, it struck me that regularly adopting a slightly different working approach could be a very refreshing creative experience. Changing even one stage of your working procedures, no matter how uncomfortable at first, can increase your field of experience and bring about new sparks of inspiration. After all, there really is no absolutely definitive way of creating.
Looking through the working practices of others in your field can help, for instance, Haydn needed complete quietness and solitude whilst Mozart could work while travelling or playing billiards, Gluck was fond of a champagne or two and Rossini was even known to compose in bed!
So, why not try changing the way you work? Whether you’re a composer, artist, photographer, writer or film maker, try altering something and see where it leads you: a process, the venue, the time of day you work, more equipment, less equipment, different equipment! Do share what works for you so others can give it a try!

Posted by author: ChrisLawry
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4 thoughts on “Doing things differently

  • A very valid point indeed. I always approach a new work from a different angle every time. I have no real process of working other than getting the ideas down on paper or notation software. One piece may begin in my head and transfer to manuscript another may begin by improvising on an instrument and developing from there. One of my favourite ways is late at night with a desk lamp on and nothing else with a piece of clean manuscript paper. It also depends on the instrumentation and whether it is a commission of not. I certainly suggest breaking your routine to create. The routine comes in later with the full cleaned up score. Try it you will be very surprised at what comes out of it. Sometimes it comes from walking the dog on a long walk and a tune or sound comes into my head and I end up writing a section without all the labour and sweat. All these processes can be used by every creative artist.
    I once knew a poet who only wrote in two places, in the pub and in the bath. You could always tell which poems were which. This was his process and very successful he was too at doing it.

  • Not sure how this translates to music but I find an artificial restriction – such as a fixed lens, or a fixed or limited location often helps when I’m in Photography rut.

      • Absolutely, restrictions can be seriously helpful in kicking things off. This is a great subject for students across the OCA regardless of subject. It’s interesting to hear what works for people and how it might relate to your own discipline.

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