Planning and organizing an oeuvre

When a bar is a small tiny bit of the whole oeuvre, how does it relate to all the other Music? Not only the Music that is already there, but also the Music that is still to come?

It all started with making my video ‘how I work’. When I watched it, I noticed that I was explaining ot myself how to build an oeuvre starting from the FORM I chose: A set of 34-matrix numbers, a Droste effect and the Fibonacci-series.

When I can ‘zoom-in’ seeing the bars, why can’t I ‘zoom-out’ seeing my oeuvre?

And why can’t have an oeuvre be mathematically organized? Based upon criteria of what to write? Theme, story-type or emotions? Does it have to be organised historically? Does Music benefit from being seen as a book with Chapters? (As Stephen Melillo does) Or can we use new techniques visualizing oeuvre?

Often we think about oeuvre as improvement over a timeline, like art-history always shows in graphs.

Will the music be more ‘whole’, when I design the oeuvre, the way I design a composition? Is there a difference in approach and result from thinking differently about oeuvre? Taking away time from oeuvre? But putting it in a form? Structuring now all the music from past, present and future. Making it one?

I noticed different ways of organizing oeuvres, by looking at websites of composers. The website not only show what they decided to write, but also, how they want to organize their work: difficulty-level, orchestra-type, date of publishing, length, topic. This is nice for the customer, who can look for a composition for their specific orchestra level and event. But I think there is more to it than just pleasing the customers.

Some composers have all pieces in alphabetic order, but then you have to know what title you want to hear. There is no historical order in the organisation of the pieces, except for a date with the title. This composer thinks that all his works do matter, also the ‘old’ ones.

Others have a chronological order of all the compositions or the CD’s. That means, you get an overview of the development of the composer, but you can’t find any title. Nor any level of difficulty. But the CD might be telling about what the composer wants you to hear and in what order. It’s all about the organisation of sound for representational reasons.

Often there is a ‘news’-section with upcoming concerts and sometimes a blog. The blog often also features the planned works and concerts. This is the item that gives information about the popularity of the composers works. It’s a feel good news-blog when you are doing great, but for a starting or unseen composer this is the most frustrating part of a website.

But there is not much to be found about the composers journey towards their music, about what they research, how they think, what they find important as an artist. Eric Withacre has interviews online, but it never gets too personal. I understand that people want to protect themselves from all these prying eyes. But it’s a missed opportunity to democraticize the composer. Even though an artist might not want to share that, I think it’s a missed opportunity to level with the audience.

The lack of vulnerability, shown by composers online, is an expression of the old-fashioned view that a composer is a solitaire genius.

A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creative productivity, universality in genres or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of new advances in a domain of knowledge.

Nobody is a genius, the genius is fiction created to let us believe that there are extraordinary people and we could be one of those. It’s a way to put people on a pedestal, it’s a relic from ancient times when the King build concert-halls where Mahler’s massive orchestra would fit in. I’m not convinced that Mahler was a genius: the way he treated his wife was appalling. Mahler never really understood form, I think he had a lot of ideas, but never managed to ‘make a necklace‘ out of them. I also think that his music tends to sound aggressive and frustrated because he never see the beauty of FORM, I think he was in his heart not a happy creature, frustrated by the result of his own work. That is what I hear, and in my opinion, you always hear the composer in the music. It’s what makes music from great composers so recognizable.

It’s all the people around him, that needed him to be a genius. And he needed that too for himself, good composers are mostly insecure by nature. They doubt and question themselves, it’s the only way to develop yourself. The grandeur of having a genius at work for you, that is what the king needed. Still, the huge crowd making music together is rather impressive, but so is a death-metal band with the right speaker-set.

Now, back to oeuvre: Why is the history of an oeuvre not really important?

When Thomas Trachsel was teaching me, he said: “Never throw anything away, you have to keep everything. They are all part of your oeuvre. You will not understand it now, but later you will thank me for this advise. ” I kept everything and also put all my work on my website. They are all part of my journey in Music. It’s not that the earlier Music isn’t good, it’s just not treated with the right craftsmanship, yet.

So, you can keep all the ideas with you until you can write them in a good way in the right place in your oeuvre. This also means that the history of an oeuvre does show the way the composer learned how to do things, but it doesn’t show the intention of what the composer wanted to make.

Now, we have new tools to think about organizing oeuvre, and it comes from an unexpected source: What about Data Driven Documents?

Some examples of what I mean:

Using these tools to SEE your oeuvre, you can also use them to show the FORM of your oeuvre. When you use FORM to shape an oeuvre, you can use Data Driven Visuals to wander around in your own oeuvre and help customers find what they are looking for.

Will help shaping the oeuvre in advance help me write better music? I think it does, because it narrows my options, I choose what not to write. I already blogged that music you decide not to write, will sound anyway, because while defining what not to write, you already heard it sound in your head.

Now, I will be able to see what I want to write and what I didn’t and whether that is a conscious choice or not.

Can it be customer friendly? I think that making an oeuvre fit a FORM, structure it in advance will help define what not to write. I will keep you on track forming a cohesive oeuvre. I also think that this way of organizing an oeuvre will help work focused and cohesive, without the distraction of the ‘whole universe’ that you could write, but decided not to.

I also think that imagining an oeuvre with the help of Data Driven Documents will help others roam around your music, considering compositions by changing selecting criteria and seeing the oeuvre organised into that way of looking at it.

By Anneloes Wolters


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