Matching music to characters

Lately I’ve been working on a very interesting music project. What’s that? You say you’d like me to tell you about it? Well, I wasn’t planning on it, but sure. I can never say no to you.

I started with the goal of composing a “conversational” piece of music. The different instruments would represent different characters and they would converse with each other. This sort of thing is hardly unheard of in the history of music, but it was a new approach for me (though as I’ve proceeded I’ve come to realize that I’ve taken this tact unconsciously with much of my music for years.)

Before I started writing I came up with several imaginary characters whose personalities would be conveyed through the music. One is a flighty nag, another a slow moving but well intentioned sort (think Pooh Bear) and several others. I also thought up a kind of story to follow as I wrote the music.

This idea seems to be a great mental trick for writing. I find myself visualizing various scenes when writing and mapping the music to that. I’m far from done but have written about 3 minutes of fairly dense music in a fairly short period (say 6 hours or so which might sound like a lot but is faster than usual for me.)

Ultimately this speaks to a broader process for creativity, one that could be applied to all sorts of endeavors – novel writing, painting, poetry etc. Basically, you have to set limits around what you are doing. If you approach a creative project with everything on the table, it’s impossible to choose from the limitless options. But if I say, as I am saying here, that I have creation musical characters that must be matched, then I know when I on track and when I’m going astray.

This actually reminds me a bit of something I discussed earlier: Earl Gardner’s Plot Wheel. This was a device the author of the Perry Mason mysteries would use to somewhat randomly assemble the elements for a story. One he had them he could knock out the tale rather quickly.

I’m glad you asked me to explain this. I think this discussion was fruitful.

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