Composing

The key to living...


My man Shostakovich allegedly once said

In the long run, all things in life can be separated into the important and the unimportant. You must be principled when it comes to the important things, and not when it comes to the unimportant. That may be the key to living.”

I say ‘allegedly’ because his famous ‘Testimony” memoirs, which were published after his death have had their authenticity disputed for a long time. Regardless of who actually said it, I think they were right. There is a right time to stick to your principles and there are definitely times when it’s more appropriate to be flexible.

When I first starting working as a teacher I was very principled in my approach. Every student should receive the best learning experience from me, the best of what I can offer. To this day I still think this way -- though lately I have learned the virtue of being flexible in the classroom environment.

Whereas once I would believe in and insist on absolute mastery of techniques, now I can package that knowledge for a specific individual so that they can easily add a simple string arrangement to their grime tune -- and not feel dirty afterwards like I’ve just personally offended the muses, but actually feel happy in the knowledge that this student wouldn’t have otherwise bothered with the concept of harmony if I hadn’t been able to flex.

The key to living. I remember a time when I tried to be principled in every aspect of my life - I wanted to be the living breathing embodiment of everything I believed in. How boring. How exhausting! No, I can’t write music that is too commercial. No, I can’t be part of THAT project, since it’s not what I’m about as an artist ... No, I can’t like that composer’s music because it is too derivative. No, I can’t go to that gig because that band went big and ‘sold out’. No, I can’t be friends with that person because they don’t like the same art and music that I do. What a load of hogwash. Life is more fun when you say ‘Yes” to things, when you are prepared to bend your strict principles a little, when the situation calls for it.

Things that are important: my partner, my career, my creative output, my friends, my financial well being, my health, being charitable. Things that are unimportant: haircuts, websites, xbox games, what music my friends like, what people think of me and my work, being right all the time.

... No, I can’t like that composer’s music because it is too derivative. No, I can’t go to that gig because that band went big and ‘sold out’. No, I can’t be friends with that person because they don’t like the same art and music that I do. What a load of hogwash. Life is more fun when you say ‘Yes” to things, when you are prepared to bend your strict principles a little, when the situation calls for it.

Things that are important: my partner, my career, my creative output, my friends, my financial well being, my health, being charitable. Things that are unimportant: haircuts, websites, xbox games, what music my friends like, what people think of me and my work, being right all the time.





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