Sometimes I listen to something that I’ve written and think, “How did I do that?” Sometimes I ask, “Where was that hiding?” I remember the first time, which was not so terribly long ago. I finished the song in a day, a surprisingly short amount of time at that point in my career. I went back to listen to it, as I do when I edit, and there was so little to fix. It broke away from the “normal” style that I use. The 4 measure phrasing was gone, the typical chord progressions were missing, the ABAB format had disappeared. I had stepped so far away from where I was at the time and had not mis-stepped in any obvious way. Contrarily, it is one of my favorite song to this day.
I hear other composers and artists talk about this phenomenon. Some say it’s like taking dictation and others call it inspiration and some say it is like being in sync with the idea. All of these make sense to me, a self-proclaimed “worker”. I think of my music as a skill that I have to practice and hone. I don’t condemn the idea of the muse or enlightenment from on high. I just accounted an anecdote of my own experience with it. But it doesn’t happen everyday. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did?
I keep myself open to the possibility that she’ll visit me, my muse. I work every day, at the same time, on my music. For me, that time is in the morning, after my 1st or 2nd cup of coffee, from about 7am – 12pm. Sometimes it’s earlier and sometimes it’s much later. In general, though, I like to keep my creativity on a schedule. That way my muse knows when to visit me, if she is going to visit at all. Sure, she makes sneak attacks at 1am or some other ridiculous times now and again. But she appreciates that I have a visitation schedule established.
I like that I don’t completely understand her. I like that I may not always know when she’s going to show up. But I love that I know how to be open enough to hear and learn her lessons well enough to use them after she leaves me. I think that’s all she wants for me: to be better. She wants me to be aware of what I don’t know that I know. I doubt that there will ever come a day where I can say, “Ok, I know it all. Let’s really make some music now.” And that makes me happy. Because I know she’ll never be satisfied that I know “enough”. And she’ll always be around, making music for me when I can’t tell the difference between CMAJ7 and F-minor.