Hard to believe this is the 30th column I’ve managed to bang out for NewMusicBox!
This week—the Golden Week holidays in Japan—is providing ample time for cultural noshing in theaters and live performance houses, as well as some composing exercises. I say exercises because, while I’ve got a number of projects on my plate, I’ve found myself using the time to try out some general ideas I’ve had rolling around in the back of my brain, as well as some new ones that came on the spur of the moment, without any particular place to apply them in mind. Let the ideas flow, and we’ll sort ‘em out later.
One particular impetus for some composer-bone stretching came from this week’s release of the long-awaited update to Max/MSP, my programming software of choice. More than just music software, Max/MSP 5 is rightly described on the parent company’s website as a graphical environment for music, audio, and multimedia. I’ve been a user of this program since 1990, and one of its most significant updates has just taken place.
As I’ve mentioned before in these columns, I think that free play is one of the most productive ways to compose, and even when I am facing a deadline for a project with particular constraints, sometimes just tooling around (or perhaps just as precisely, fooling around) with a notepad close at hand can be productive, and also a useful way to overcome creative blocks. A new version of a familiar piece of creativity software like Max/MSP 5 is the perfect vehicle: plenty of comfort with the fundamentals, but lots of additions and reworked features that keep me poking, prodding, exploring, experimenting, and creating. While some of the things I find while programming in Max/MSP 5 should naturally find their way into any of my computer-based compositions—on average about 95 percent of my oeuvre after all—I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them leads me in a new direction in the (decidedly non-electronic) piano piece I am also working on. That’s the fun.
See you next week.