Posts Tagged ‘composition’

I’m a fortunate soul these days. I’m spending the month of July writing music for no other reason than that I want to, thanks to a recent award from the Arts Council of Ireland. No specific brief, no terms and conditions, simply following the creative urge wherever it leads. And for once, having such time and financial freedom to compose has not coincided with chronic writer’s block. So, everything’s going swimmingly. Minor niggle; the scolding figure in my head admonishing me: ‘You can’t do that’. For whatever reason, composers don’t tend to share these thoughts much with each other, so I have no idea whether this thought process is entirely standard, or uniquely my problem.

 Now, I’ve always loved sea shanties, even before they became a Tiktok sensation (!) But their recent – if somewhat surprising –  surge in popularity probably was responsible for my thoughts going in the following direction when I sat down to start writing. Without exactly intending to, I’ve ended up composing a work for multiple voices, percussion and strings, inspired by the sea. Text-wise, I’m playing around with invented words and language, in much the same way that many historic sea shanties include words that have no real meaning, owing to an initial mishearing when the tunes were overheard in a foreign port. So I’d call the piece a sort of contemporary sea shanty, except here’s where the internal dialogue becomes problematic: You can’t do that! It’s not folky enough for a sea shanty and it’s not ‘arty’ enough to be categorised as contemporary/serious. 

Rationally, I’m well aware this makes no sense. Why can’t I? Are angry sailors going to show up at my door complaining that they can’t haul their bowlines because I’ve written a shanty in 5/4? Are the contemporary music police likely to fine me for use of tonal harmony in a piece of art music? No. There is no law prohibiting the of writing a piece that resists neat categorisation, and the world would certainly continue to turn even if I never finished it. And yet, I can’t shake off the sense of misgiving.  I would truly be interested to know if other creative people experience this phenomenon.