21 August, 2005

Well, now I'm frustrated. Trying to do music. It's driving me nuts. Here I have been. Working on it. Not working on it. Mostly, not working on it. Avoiding it because I don't know what I am doing. Probably more afraid that I don't know what I am doing. So, a lot of time has been wasted just avoiding the whole issue, which always makes me cranky. So, I'm determined. I know I need to do this. I know I need to work on it. I know that not working on it is making me even more cranky and depressed.

So, I sit down with the third movement of my stupid little piece of shit exercise, knowing that it is a stupid little piece of shit exercise and that there is absolutely no damn reason why it should be taking me this long to clobber this little piece of shit exercise into submission, and this stupid little piece of shit exercise just does not want to behave.

I cannot figure out what to do with it. It won't form. It refuses design. It's just this horrible little monstrosity that simply won't behave, and I'm having all of these mental little nightmares while sitting at the piano, starring at the chicken scratched paper. I worry that I am all just full of pretentious little delusions of crap. I should just stop fooling myself. I'm no good. I'm crap. I should admit that I can't do music and give up. If I was any good, I would have stuck with it. I would have gone on to big things and gotten more degrees and studied and analyzed and gotten performed and all of that rot. But, no, I've got to call it quits with the Masters Degree. Convince myself that I can't be bothered with all the ass kissing and back-stabbing and politicking that goes on at the doctoral level. Admit it was all a crock. Admit I stopped because I just wasn't good enough. Music has beaten me.

So, yeah, that's the kind of crap that has been swirling around the inner recesses of my mind. Sitting at the piano. Not sitting at the piano. Listening to my computer try to play back my chicken scratches. It's all just so bloody frustrating. The third movement of my little piece of shit exercise sonatina simply won't behave. It won't be. The second movement isn't much better. It sounds like a Volga Boatman's Song. Oh, man, it just sounds icky.

All of which just drives me absolutely up the wall because of the first movement. The damn first movement is actually pretty good. It lead me on. It tricked me into thinking that I might actually be able to do something here. Lead me on with its quick creation and surprisingly nice sound. Made me think the rest of the gang would behave. Would go smoothly and all make sense. And, I would have a nice little piece of shit exercise sonatina that I could be proud of having scribbled onto a piece of paper.

So, this third movement just offends me. I know I've gotten in over my head. The music is bigger than the form. It's just bursting at the seams, and I don't know what to do. Fortunately, I have realized that the problem may just be in the form I'm trying to shoehorn the damn thing into. So, I try something else. I rework the whole last phrase. I bring it around to something of a cadence, making the first theme the first part of a binary or ternary form. I try playing it out on the piano and know that I'm just not good enough of a pianist to know. I drag it up to my computer and discover that the final phrase just doesn't sound good. I realize I've got to go back to an idea I had abandoned. So, I'm sitting there at the piano, trying to read the notes I erased, and get the changes into the computer.

The computer plays that, and I realize that the piece is done. Fucking piece of shit is trying to kill me! It's done? Finished? It can't be done! It's too short! It's only the first part of a larger form! It's can't be done! It's only three phrases consisting of a theme and two variations! It can't be finished! It just can't!

See, the problem is that this fucking piece of shit of a stupid little exercise is trying to defy every fucking little thing I am trying to accomplish here. I'm trying to work with form. I'm trying to apply some design structure to the music. I want to get the dust off of this. I want it at my fingertips and under my skin, and this simply doesn't happen when the music refuses to follow some very basic rules of form and design. Sure, the piece of shit may be done, but it hasn't accomplished its intended goal, which is to help me with musical structure. It's just being a total monkey farting turd about everything.

So, I threw my hands up in the air and wandered away from the computer, decided to ignore the piano, ignore the music, and do something completely different. I would just stew and sulk and think about what I could do. Give myself time to figure if I could expand the piece of shit the way I wanted or if it was simply better to let it be. After all, the ultimate goal is to let the music be what it wants and needs to be. There is simply no point in trying to force music to be what you as the composer want it to be. That path leads to destruction, insanity and ruin. The ultimate goal of the composer is simply to recognize when the music is done.

Sure, it may have nothing to do with what you expected. It may be existing in all defiance of proper form and design. It may be a little piece of pig shit laughing boldly at all of your attempts to make it a useful little exercise, but it still exists. It is still complete onto itself.

Defiance of proper form and design is one of those things that has been driving composers crazy ever since time began. Theorists love form and design because it means they can describe something. They can understand it. Composers use form and design to help give them direction and structure. It's like setting up fence posts and knowing that you kind of want to string your fence between these posts, but the most important thing to remember here is that you can move the posts. Of course, it is the theorists who write the music textbooks and teach the vast majority of composers, and it is the composers who rail against the theoretical fence posts that have been settled in concrete because those puppies are hard to dig up and move around.

When I was researching Debussy for a Twentieth Century Music History Class, I stumbled across the best story about the guy. He freaked one night. No, really, in the middle of a crowded room after business hours or whatever. The gang was just hanging out in a salon, and our boy Debussy was at the piano. Now, something to know at this point in Debussy's life was that he was just about the greatest theoretical composer who had ever gone to this famous music school in France. I can't remember the name of the school, and I don't care. If you want to know where Debussy got his formal training, you can just look it up. Anyway, this school has this really impossibly hard entrance exam. I mean they make this test so hard that nobody could ever hope to get a good score. They've been using this exam for years, and Debussy has the distinction of earning the heights score ever on this exam so we know that Debussy knows his shit. He can Beethoven his Mozart like nobody's business. Anyway, he was sitting at the piano one night, hanging with the gang, when he suddenly twigged. He started playing through every single last piece he had ever learned, and he was really pounding those keys. He wasn't playing the music. He was trying to destroy the music. The other guys in the room figured pretty fast that something was up and that this Debussy dude was intent on destroying that piano. He was doing everything short of taking a chainsaw to the poor thing. So, he finally finished, all huffing and blowing, and shouted to the room in general that he was sick of music. He had suddenly reached the realization that all music and all traditional form and design was crap. It was pure and utter crap, and he proceeded to announce that he was forsaking all form and design. He would strike out as he wished and make music the way he wished. No more sticking to the sonata-allegro form for him. And, Debussy went on to do some really cool music. As my old piano teacher once told me, Debussy used organic form and design, meaning the music dictated the shape rather than the shape dictating the music.

Beethoven reached a similar impasse, which was when he then composed the Moonlight and Tempest Piano Sonatas, which theorists and historians hate analyzing because they defy all conventional form and design, but I'm not really here to claim I have anything in common with these guys other than to say they had moments when they fought against form and design.

So, maybe I shouldn't be fighting this. After having slept on it, I know I really just need to let the music be what it can be. I shouldn't be forcing it into shapes just because I feel I want to get my fingers around the shape. Sure, sonata-allegro is pretty cool, but it is not the be-all end-all of existence. I never intended it that way. I just wanted to work with form, but I shouldn't let that get in the way.

So, yeah, I think my stupid little attempt of a piece of shit exercise piano sonatina is finished, and I'll probably be posting it to the website at some point today. It may take me a little longer to add it to the podcast.

You know there are all kinds of interesting things I have learned about podcasting, and I really intended to write about those discoveries here. But, railing about this other crap has just gone on for so long, I don't really feel like writing about podcasting right now. Hell, I've still got comics to convert for this week, and a piano sonatina to clean up enough to post on the website. I'll write more later. I've got crap to do.

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