To say that I’ve been working on a web site for a long time is a gross understatement. I started by buying Dreamweaver in 2001. I managed to make it do a few things, connect some pages, but balked at the idea of actually putting it up on the web. People would ask me, “What is your website?” And I would say, “I don’t have one”. And it’s not that I’m not a big fan of the computer. I used to ruin myself financially on these expensive machines, that in retrospect, did hardly anything compared to what we can do today. I was learning to write music on the computer, coordinate the sequencer with the synthesizer, etc. I could write scores on the computer, that much made sense. I could score films, no problem. Manage financial software, handle email programs, word processing, Photoshop, Page Maker, you name it, I could figure it out. Websites, setting up my own website, eluded me until a week ago or so. Strange. I’ve discovered the joys of IWeb. Macintosh computers are very expensive, but in the long run, they save you money. I’ve never had to call a geek to fix it. There’s rarely if ever a compatibility issue. And for iWeb, it’s utterly intuitive. I was thinking of taking the plunge and actually buying Dreamweaver again, since the old version I have was from before Mac OSX, positively ancient. I watched tutorials on youtube and everything. I downloaded the trial version and used it for a month. Everything I could come up with was utterly disappointing. So here we are. If it works, don’t fix it.
Arranging all of my videos of concert performances of my works, I realized that when I write a work, I need to let it sit for a while and gestate. I’m constantly coming up with new solutions to problems in pieces. I wish I had gotten to that solution sooner, but such is life. I look at it this way: it took me a good 10 or 15 years to attain a high level of playing as a pianist, to acquire a certain ease and mastery at the instrument, where I was no longer fighting with myself and the instrument. The war was over. But composition is a horse of a different color. It’s a far more subtle process. For years as a pianist, my first reflex upon sitting down at the piano was to improvise. In many and most ways, I was a horrible student. I never practiced what I was told to. I seemed to have this sort of creative life that functioned independently of my actual studies at the piano. The practice session could begin with the best of intentions. “I’m going to warm up on scale and arpeggios, and then learn my Mozart Sonata/ Bach Invention/ und so weiter… but then I’d get bored, or something would happen, and I would find that I had been improvising for 2 hours, and come out of this sort of musical trance, almost stoned on my own creativity. And worse yet, I was ashamed of it. It was like I had done something wrong. My parents and teachers all told me that I was “fooling around”, “wasting my time”. A former teacher actually told me point blank that he thought improvisation was “musical masturbation”. I didn’t realize that it was “pay dirt”. Many of the great composers were great improvisers. When John Bayless gave his first master class on improvisation at Juilliard in May 1987, I was the only matriculated student in the entire school who asked to be part of the class. I would call the office periodically to make sure that my name was on the list, ask “whom I needed to speak to to make sure I was on the list”. Turns out I was the ONLY pianist in the entire school who actually wanted to do this. They had to go to the dance department and borrow an ballet class accompanist to participate in the master class, so that I would not be the only one. It’s crazy. What happened to the days when Bach/ Mozart/ Beethoven/ Liszt were given a theme to expound upon musically?
We have at our disposal amazing machines that can help us create new works with consummate ease. We would be the envy of all of the great composers of centuries past, who had to write all of their material out by hand. My suspicion is that poor Mozart died of exhaustion. To write out 621 works by hand before the age of 36, he must have strained physically just to keep up with the flow of the music, the current of the inspiration. It’s tiring to write out an orchestration on a screen, but I can’t imagine doing it by hand. I must say though that one of the things that composers of earlier times had over us today, is that they had no choice but to sit down and write out every note by hand. There is still something to sitting down and writing out each note by hand. It’s like having a momentary intimate relationship with each note, with each musical idea as it hits the paper. But sometimes I get into the flow more easily with the computer. I’ve grown to see over the years that it doesn’t matter if I have a preference for which kind of tool I use to compose. A friend of mine has come up with the definite solution for getting pieces written. It’s simply called “Ass in chair”… end of story.