Mmm, California peaches! That little phrase, inflected with a faux-Southern accent no less, became my mantra during a childhood camping trip, after I discovered how my tuneful delivery and insistent repetition had the succinct ability to drive anyone within earshot up the wall. By injecting my outbursts into inappropriate moments, I managed to hijack conversations, elicit laughter, and irritate people. And although I did dance rather far down the path toward parental punishment, somehow I managed to evade disciplinary measures the entire trip and returned home scot-free. It was during this sojourn in the great outdoors that I realized that my adult career would somehow involve annoying people.
It’s not just my inner child that enjoys annoying people; it’s been my artistic modus operandi for decades. Wait. Could it be that all of those dissonant chords, amplified screeches, and inscrutable amalgams that I’ve been passing off as music might somehow be akin to that snot-nosed kid pretending to be from Georgia while singing the praises of a certain fruit grown in the Golden State? I actually had a mini-epiphany about all of this while I was in Denver (and this is my last mention of Denver for a good long time, promise): My approach to composing music is, more than likely, grossly misguided.
Allow me to explain. The work I’ve created up to this point spurs from a rather skeptical aesthetic standpoint, fostered by a barrage of things I just don’t buy into, such as: Music has the ability to communicate something “meant” by its creator; music is inherently emotional; yada, yada, yada—you know, stuff like that. For me, music is a byproduct of artistic ideas haphazardly materialized in the form of vibrating air. It’s the artistic impetus behind the will to set those vibrations into motion, and not necessarily the sonic results of whatever is written on the page (or not), that matters more to me. There’s a certain amount of artistic cynicism that I harbor in order to tap into the concepts and materials that I use and the ways in which I use them when throwing together a new composition. Yes, it’s all so self-aware and postmodern, which I actually enjoy. However, after basking in the glow of Sxip Shirey and the genuine sense of wonderment he exudes while listening to and creating music, I was half-swayed to drop my attitude, so to speak, when it comes to my approach to composition. Where to go from here? Well, I was thinking of trying to write a piece without an ounce of irony. This, I’m sure, will be easier typed than done. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to title it Mmm, California Peaches.