Appetite for Composing
Most composers I’ve met hunger for all kinds of things: for opportunities to create certain kinds of pieces, for recognition, for artistic growth, for the chance to impact the world, or for just a little more of that sweet cash-money to pay the bills. It’s fair to say that we’re all hungry for something, or we likely wouldn’t have undertaken the many labors necessary to develop our abilities to communicate in sound; yet at the same time, we’re all driven by individual tastes and appetites when it comes to where we invest our creative energy.
Some composers I’ve met have a voracious appetite when it comes to creating and collaborating, but find they have little stomach for the less exciting grunt work that’s often necessary in order for current creative work to lead to future projects. Conversely, I also know a lot of “operators” who seem to relish clerical and organizational tasks more so than the creative process. What whets one composer’s appetite often has little resemblance to the preferences and desires that drive others.
And just like our urge to eat, the appetite for composing tends to fluctuate throughout life, the current year, and even over the course of a single day. I know many composers who awaken hungry for composing and love working best in the morning, before the creative muse is clouded by the many other concerns of daily life. I find I usually wake up with a taste for catching up on emails, phone calls, and other busywork (like copying scores and mailing stacks of parts). Once these preliminaries are out of the way, I usually don’t get the urge to do some composing until the evening—there is something about being “off the clock” that makes me feel creative, and the preceding hours of busywork are just the thing to work up an appetite for writing music. Many artists speak of the normal ebb and flow of creative cycles or “seasons” that culminate with the “harvest” of finished work and a pronounced “fallow period” where there is a rest from the incessant intensity of creativity.
When I first started out composing in high school, I couldn’t get enough—I was hooked! With a few pieces under my belt and the focused scrutiny of academia, I noticed this hunger starting to diminish. Part of this was a natural and healthy result of increased introspection and the desire to figure out what I’d try to tackle next. At one point later in my twenties I was alarmed to find that my zest for composing had almost dried up—I still consciously wanted to compose, but that genuine feeling of hunger was, for a moment, close to flickering out. After the singular focus on composing during my school years, what I needed most at that moment was to take a break. Spending too much time composing is just like spending too much time eating; without cessation at least for a brief time, one doesn’t ever feel those pangs of hunger and therefore can’t find satisfaction. After taking some time off, my typical ravenous desire to compose returned.
Composers, what are you hungry for? What is it that most sustains you when it comes to composing, and what parts of the experience do you find less palatable? What factors seem to impact your “hunger” for creating music?