With 3 mains I took my first bash at making ‘serious’ instrumental music.
Someone put this idea in my head, for the first time, that to be a proper composer, you had to be a proper pianist. And I had never, until then, considered taking composition studies or lessons in order to define that; I had simply been working in a style that I felt comfortable with, and that I’d assumed might come to be expected from all of my instrumental work. But now it seemed like the stakes were higher, because there was so much suddenly left to learn.
By this time, I’d been particularly influenced by The Durutti Column, Wim Mertens, Michael Nyman… It was these slightly idiosyncratic composers who had found their way into film, that offered me a spirit of what to shoot for; I couldn’t find anything in the mainstream of film that inspired this desire in me, although I definitely liked the idea of being on the alternative side of that line, and letting film “maximize the audience” to coin a phrase.
I can definitely see where each of these three shows up in my music from this time, between 1989 and 1992. At this time I was writing music that I wished to imbue with “healing qualities.” Do composers share a desire with doctors… to provide a social service to heal up mankind?
I’ve always felt the term ‘new age’ is harmful because it’s pejorative; it describes a milquetoast approach to composition, whereas I feel it’s definitely best to shake the cage a little. But the music of that period is equalized by MIDI production; which says low-tech over hi-fi. For the pieces to have been done full justice, they would have definitely needed to be performed and recorded live in the concert hall. That’s the catch-22 of contemporary instrumental music… There are not many amplified orchestras hovering around looking for work… I did develop a more ‘serious’ compositional style though, juxtaposing a kind of plaintive, melodic sadness, against the joy of feeling completely alive.
Since 1994, I’ve pretty much been on the tangent that’s brought me round to where I sit now, musically speaking.
I stopped listening to pop radio, except under the rarest of circumstances, I began subscribing to The Wire (not always a good thing, in every critic’s book, assuming you “read the reviews”) and I began to stop making music.
I remember the day when a drummer, whose views infuriated my drummer friend in high school because this was a musician who espoused virtue on the merits of playing less, than more. I remember that idea crystallizing in my head over that 20-year period, when it became clear to me that nothing I wanted to do was radio-worthy anyway. But the word less seemed so potent because less meant so many ideas at once. Fewer notes. Less often, or slower. More deliberate. Less practice at the importance of not becoming a “muso” whose output is more about technique than substance.
I was hooked onto something; what an amazing idea to put into someone’s head before they go and totally fuck up their lives, trying to do pop music without a trace of real interest in it. I wanted everything I did to be brainy, arty & sexy. Or in any event, brainy and arty. But not arty-farty.