One of the things about my work which takes a while to get used to, is the lack of tangability.
When a potter makes a vase, it is a physical representation of their skill. Evaluating this item is very straight forward.Even those of us that provide a service like plumbing, painting or deliveries, the results are much more measurable.
For me, the display of my skill only exists for the period in which the music is played. A particularly clever musical phrase that I may be proud of might only last 2 seconds and then it’s gone again.
Don’t misunderstand me, I do realise that music is a very acknowledged and integral part of our society, but I do think that composers (and even performers) should balance up their lives by being creative in other more physical artforms. I often do feel a certain lack of closure in my work. Many of my clients leave my studio happy with a master CD in hand, and I will not hear anything more about it. I’m sure they have benefited from it professionally and financially….probably more so than myself.
On rare occasions I am invited along to a performance of music which I was somehow involved in, but they are rare and fleeting.
I dedicated a month of my time to helping with orchestrations for the film “Australia” last year. It was the first project I had undertaken where the work was farmed out to me, along with a few others around Australia. Like any established creative team, there existed between the members a system, a bunch of tacet understandings about how the work was done..how it looked….most of which I was not aware of. This was a baptism of fire. It was known that I was a new team member, also I was new to the software, and for that matter new to orchestrating a different composer’s work for a 160 piece orchestra. I’m not sure exactly what their expectations of me were, but I went into it feeling like a gladiator about to enter the collosseum with a plastic light sabre.
Writing music down on paper, is really as flexible as writing literature. Of course there are rules like grammar etc, but interpretation is normally quite flexible…..but not when you are a part of an orchestration team. There needed to be a consistency throughout all the work. This, along with a ridiculous deadline created one of the more torrid and stressfull months in my career, not to mention the bruising to my self esteem. Having my work scrutinized, criticized, re-edited, and often sent back for revisions, was very hard. Sadly I only really started to understand the ‘system’ at the very end of the job, and by then I had lost a lot of the trust of the head orchestrator. To add insult to injury, my name (along with a few others) was omitted from the credits in the final edit of the film. The reason (aparantly) was due to a last minute cropping of the credit reel to accomodate some other recuts in the last act. I have my doubts about this, and personally think my name never did get submitted.
I guess I’m making a point about recognition.I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m jaded. That’s not the case at all. This is just something I have thought a lot about in the past and don’t think a lot of people realise.
The payoff for a performer, is the applause. It might sound like a lousy reward to anybody who has not experienced it. But professional performers will often tell you that they would perform for the applause alone, if they could live without money. It is an immediate validation for all those rehearsals and training sessions we have put in to a performance. I can relate to this because I used to be a performing musician.
A producer and composer does not get the same opportunity unfortunately. We can live vicariously through a client, show up to a performance and immerse ourselves in the crowd’s reaction to the music, search for film reviews and hope they comment (favorably) about the music, but it never really compares to being on the crest of the applause wave.
So how do we keep going? Well I can only answer for myself. I get all the support and validation I need from my wife and family. If I begin to doubt myself….or get too cocky for that matter….I can rely on my loved ones to pull me into line. On top of this, I recieve small random infusions when my music is played in public. Sometimes all I need to regain some confidence is to hear one of my TV jingles chime from the TV in the loungeroom during dinner.
Well I have Christmas chores to get to. More coming…..