Baring my stuff ups – and my soul – to the Universe

You know, I’ve often thought that writing music is a little like baring your soul to the Universe.

When I write a new work, I don’t know how it will be received. Maybe people will hate it. Worse yet, maybe it will be ignored. Feedback is often sketchy, and friends aren’t the greatest bellweather, as often they’re just a bit too…positive.

I’m a beginner composer. I suppose every composer has to begin somewhere, but I’ve chosen to make my beginnings public, and offer them up to the internet freely.

It’s a new way of doing things, and time will tell whether its a good way or not.

Enter the gurus

The traditional way for composers to begin, of course, is to be mentored by some great, already-recognised musical genius with all the connections and all the know-how.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a super green Guru to teach you everything so you never make a mistake? Unfortunately, that’s movie-land, not reality.

The wonderful Yoda-like guru teaches his “padawan” learner the Ways Of The Force. And everyone in The Know smiles and welcomes the padawan to the Culture.

Acceptance is inevitable. Failure isn’t an option.

Or something like that.

The internet is my homeboy

I don’t have a mentor. Never have had one. That’s the way things are. Times are rough.

So here I am, mentor-less, guru-deprived, female (shock! horreur!), outside the Ivory Tower, learning as I go.

The internet is my homeboy instead.

It’s not a bad way to do things, but you have to have a rock-solid sense of self, and an utterly unshakeable love of what you do, regardless of how it might turn out.

OMG…did I really write that $%^$%^?

I’ve no idea whether I’m actually any “good” or not. Time will be the judge of that. And in the end, it doesn’t matter, because I love what I do. I’d write music even if none of it were ever performed.

Sometimes I look back on a piece, and cringe a bit. I see my faults, in glorious technicolour and full stereo, out there in the marketplace of the internet for everyone to see forever and ever.

Last century, composers could burn their rubbish. My trash is permanently on display for free download. Lucky me. The internet is a great tool, but not without a sting in its tail.

I can try to take down copies of music I’m unhappy with, but within days of being published the music has usually gone viral, with several copies posted (quite legally of course, as they’re creative commons) in various free music sites around the tracks. I’d be fighting a losing battle (and being a bit Orwellian in my attempt to change the past) to even try.

Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth…

Maybe the trash should stay anyway.

Maybe, in these days of image consultants and legal consultants and managers and social networking advisers, maybe its a breath of fresh air for someone like me to be out here, online, with the good stuff and the bad, the stuff ups and the better works, being honest and free.

Maybe we need more people to say, “Here I am. I write music because I love music, and if you don’t like my stuff, that’s just fine!”

So yes, here I am. I’s just me, only me. Baring my stuff ups – and my soul – to the Universe.

It’s a little scary. I feel like a baby bird, fluffing my tiny feathers and taking my first leap from the nest. The earth is a long way down, and home is a long way behind me.

But if I didn’t leap, I’d never know what it is to fly.

So here I am, learning to fly.

Quote for composers

It is not the critic who counts; not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat

– speech (with minor changes) by Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910.

Daring to compose – just like daring to do anything else – isn’t about being great, or getting great reviews, or being the person who gains the applause or the notice, or the fame, or the support of the establishment.

It’s about the willingness to put yourself forward and give it your best, despite what anyone thinks of you or your work.

So what are you waiting for?