The Great Indoors
Frank J. Oteri’s comments about his enthusiasm for (as he puts it) “the great indoors” struck a chord with me; like it or not, my music is not worked out or even conceived during country strolls by babbling brooks, or even during forays into the rapidly expanding urban outdoors, earbuds or no. As any musician (and any musician who composes, especially) can attest to, this profession involves a lot of time sitting indoors in front of keyboards, music stands, and computer screens. The fact that remarkable music is at times created amid the most plebian and un-panoramic circumstances is one of the things that makes it even more remarkable. We don’t have to go trotting about the forest preserve with a parasol to think of the Pastoral Symphony, and we can embark on far-ranging emotional and psychic voyages while our physical selves remain tethered to the couch or swivel-chair.
That most familiar of indoor locations—home—is unique in that we have an enormous amount of control over the environment. We move through the rehearsal space, the office, or the classroom with a certain amount of adjustment, but usually no attempt is made to modify the existing space into anything resembling the idiosyncratic nest/den of human dwelling spaces. Therefore, home is the space that most purely reflects a composer’s inner state.
As such, the home environment has an incredible synergy with our own feelings and even the way we organize (or fail to organize!) information. I myself have a very specific composing setup in a room that is very clean and organized so that I can spread half-filled staff paper around with gleeful abandon. I usually don’t take kindly to anyone else to enter my space as I lay all kinds of sketches and lists in specific patterns and orientations that translate to meanings known by me alone.
While the indoors is ideal for this kind of situation, there’s something else in my home studio even more important than the cats I’ve already written about: a big window. This was an absolute requirement when my wife and I were searching for a place outside of DC: a lifeline to the great outdoors that keeps me in touch with the real-life consequences of all these abstract notes and rhythms.