I’ve always traveled a fair amount, but lately it’s been getting out of hand. Tomorrow will be the sixth trans-Pacific trip I will have made since the new year, and we’re just halfway through February. By the end of March, I will have logged about 45,000 air miles, and about 90 hours spent up in the sky. That’s more than two typical workweeks, even without all the time spent in the airports.
So I’m trying to find how to use the time productively. Catching up on email, reading, or listening to my iPod is great, and I do value the chance to be able to do that. But it’s getting to the point that if I don’t put some of the time I’m actually traveling to good use composing, then I’m never gonna make any of a number of deadlines I have coming up in the next few months.
The problem is, try as I might, I can’t concentrate. I tend to get absorbed in the beautiful sounds of engine noise, which I often tune in and listen to just when flying. A drone-lovers delight: try it sometime; you can idle away hours. This is, however, exactly what I can’t afford to do. Noise-reducing headphones don’t work well enough. There’s too much residual sound and anyway, I haven’t found any that sound good enough for monitoring. If someone has a recommendation please give a shout, but so far I’ve been stumped. And anyway, I’m the kind of person who works best in a calm, quiet environment, without aural or visual distractions, i.e. my own studio. I need to break some old inflexibilities.
How about you? Can you compose on a plane, a train, a bus? In a café or on a park bench? Or do you need to be in your favorite chair at your desk, with a cup of your favorite pencils (freshly sharpened), and a cup of your favorite coffee, freshly brewed, by your side? When the muse strikes, does it matter where we are? And what happens if inspiration hits at an inconvenient moment, when we can’t drop what we are doing and start slinging the notes around? Just wondering if anyone has any tips about how to compose in adversity—I’ve got some music I need to finish.