Off the Beaten Path
Generally, when I compose I aim to achieve a feeling of “rightness" between myself and what I write. When I’m notating the music, the process of editing is to invoke a sensation of rightness, which might involve adding an extra beat here, making a certain sonority more/less dissonant, changing register, giving more space or attention to a certain gesture, and so forth. I realized that this isn’t always the best procedure with composing, and usually invokes a sense of “filling out" of musical space, which, in some cases, is a very Classical-era mindset and completely validated.
But it’s not everything. This idea of achieving rightness, balance or proportion can be placed aside if the composer is willing to become uncomfortable while writing. I recently learned to let go of my comfortable “rightness" as I completed the ending of my piano trio. The proportional rightness is askew, almost choked or distorted from the natural space it feels entitled to. It was uncomfortable for me to write, because it felt wrong or badly written. That’s how the sub-par artistic mind works, the unfamiliarity becomes a false manifestation of poor quality of lack of intention, stamped out for qualities built on a sense of “rightness" or self-generated proportion. Writing music is full of uncomfortable feelings and self-doubt, but even this discomfort becomes rooted in comfort when we continually tread through the same processes.
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Tyler Versluis is a composer and pianist.