Phoenix writes his first musical composition in 13 years...
|First came the words. They would not leave my mind. I wrote on a folded up piece of paper, which I folded several different ways to accommodate all of the words that were flowing from my pen. It was a dark poem, turned into lyrics with a happy ending of sorts. It went on, stanza after stanza, which turned into long verses when it came to the music piece of things, but not yet. First, the lyrics had to be complete so that I knew what kind of music I was writing. It had been so long - could I still do it? I wondered as my pen continued scrawling ink letters over the page. White-out tape, scratch marks, and scribbled-out portions later, the poem was complete. Now...the challenge was converting them into lyrics. That seems a small task to one who has never written to rhythm, but since the rhythms had not been composed yet, it could be a problem. There was no problem initially, however, because the music began flowing in my head for this set of stanzas, this poem. The exchange of words between myself and the other character of the story could be brought to life in the registers of the scales - the lower registers for the Gravedigger and the higher register for myself. This would make the characters distinct within the music, augmented by the exchange of words in the lyrics.
I began writing the music. First, I had to remember how to make all of the symbols necessary to tell the average music reader what I wanted them to do - things like clef and time signature and repeats and interludes... The notation came back quickly, and I was writing it on this great guitar manuscript paper that I had gotten. It had both standard notation and tablature lines, as well as chord diagrams at the top of every other page. It would be a while before I could get to the chord diagrams, but the standard notation and the tablature would be immediately useful for the melody. At first, I wrote the entire song on one page in tiny notation marks and tablature, with optional measures here and there so that I had the melody template down. I would play a few measures on my guitar, then write them down, play a few more measures, write them down... I had the words loosely in my head so that the melody would follow them somewhat, but I was not worried about matching them up quite yet. The music had to flow as the words had - individually, freely, genuinely and not forced. Finally, I was finished writing the initial musical composition.
Now came the challenge. Matching the lyrics to the music. Some amendments had to be made. One stanza was left out. It was non-essential, really, but still interacted with the story portion of the composition. I wrote the words above the blank lines first, so that I could amend the notation to fit them better. After I began to get the notation written, some of the words were amended to fit the music better. Back and forth it went, fitting one to the other, until finally, I was at the last of the piece - two stanzas-worth of poetry and four lines worth of music left. I did not know what to do. I got my guitar back out and played around with it for a while until something fitting came out. I quickly scribbled the notation down as it came to finish the piece. Finish the piece. That is misleading. This piece is not finished, but by "finished", I mean the melody. There are still fills, intros, and endings to write, but the melody was my main concern. Anyway, I got the notation down beneath the lyrics and filled in the tablature for the last few lines. It felt great. I counted through every measure of my composition to make sure that it had the correct number of beats and that the notes were correct both in the standard notation and the tablature writings. I played through it on my guitar. That was the best part. I could play it. On my guitar. I wrote it. It meant something to me, and even more because it was the first piece of music I had written in 13 years. I did it! The stepwise process I had used had worked well.
There was a problem, though. I was afraid to play it for anyone for fear of criticism. It was a piece of me, a part of me - this musical composition. It was an extension of my being to have created it and I did not know if I could take any criticism over it without reacting badly and feeling like a failure. How would I get over this? I thought of professional musicians. They work night and day on songs that will sell, and the majority do not. I am no professional, though. Yet. I must keep that in mind. Who would I play it for, anyway? Who would see it? My psychiatrist, my husband, my friends...nobody who would tear it apart without a suggestion of how to better it. I will keep it to myself for a while, anyway. Just to get used to the idea of someone criticizing it. That is safe.