Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hearing the Music

For me, writing music begins in the morning when my mind is fresh--free and uncluttered from the worries of the day. I remember back in my childhood, hearing bits and pieces of melody, and I would try to pluck them out on the piano to make some sort of musical sense out of them. As I played these simple themes, I would hear additional music coming into my mind. I didn't know why I heard these songs, but they were fun to play and kept me entertained. 

Over the years, as I progressed on the piano, I began to hear more embellished music. I remember struggling to notate these pieces and turned to classical music books for help. I also studied the notation styles in favorite pieces of choral sheet music and tried to incorporate them into my own compositions. It was a long, arduous process. Before I had a computer, or music-writing software, I remember spending tedious hours cutting bazillion noteheads, clefs, staff lines, and every other music notation symbol out of old music in order to manually paste them together for a professional-appearing copy of our Cantata: Christ--Life and Light of the World. Now we have programs such as Sibelius to do this tedious work for us.

In writing music with Toni, the process of writing in the morning still continues. She will hand me some lyrics (the first draft anyway), and I sit at the piano with my mind a blank slate. I always say a prayer before I begin. I put my hands on the keyboard (in faith that something will come), and begin to pluck away. After a few random keystrokes, a melody often jumps into my mind, and I feel my fingers following the melody. This is the part that still amazes me, that a unique melody does come, each time. I am constantly humbled by each experience and know it is not "me" writing the music. 

You might think that after all these years of composing I can do this by myself. I have tried to "write music" on my own--it doesn't work. I can sit on the bench all day long, struggle to logically put this or that chord together in some sort of musical semblance, but nothing magic happens, nothing spiritually stirring, or emotionally touching. But as I allow myself to "hear the music" Heaven wants me to hear, it flows easily. Miraculously. It is a gift.

As I write the initial music down, Toni usually hands me a second draft, or third, or...fourth! But I am no diffferent. Sometimes the opposite happens. I will be playing along, and I think the song is finished when all of a sudden my hands start playing something completely different, as if they had a mind of their own, right in the middle of the piece. I then tell Toni about the new section and need for additional lyrics. This has now become the norm, both in changes in music and lyrics, as we come to complete what the Lord has intended all along! 

I remember being asked to write the music for a play for the stake that would be performed in the community in honor of the pioneers. Toni and I were hard-pressed because that meant a full 2-1/2-hour production with roughly 25 songs to be composed and arranged for full choir, soloists, and background music. In three months. We both needed a miracle. Never before, or after, have I experienced hearing so many melodies upon first awakening as I did writing that play. Each morning I would wake up with a new song in my head, clear as day. I would call Toni and ask her if she had ever heard the song before, as it sounded so familiar to me, like I had sung it all my life. She would say no and then hand me the lyrics for the next day's music she had just written. We were under intense pressure, and yet it was so wonderful to hear each new development of the play, and then write more music every day. The true miracle of it was that I had never arranged music to this extent before; I felt empowered with musical abilities greater than my own. This is a gift.


1 comment:

starryeyes said...

Hi diane ..I love what you and Toni have done with your music.You two belong together in your music .. You complement each other.. Keep up the good work.. I love listening to it and I especially love Joesph Knew.. May God continue to guide and bless you both in your music. Love Toni's Mom