Some musical experiences I find pretty tricky to describe, so I try to convey them through similar experiences that we all can share. Take riding a bike down a hill – that feeling of flying – whoosh! Or roller skating on just the right kind of smooth pavement, or skiing down a lovely hill fresh in the morning with just a little powder and no bumps. These experiences describe a sense of freedom and joy, and a type of beauty too I suppose. You didn’t get to see Ricky, my little 11 lb Italian greyhound run on the beach, but anyone who did witnessed his unbridled physical expression of sheer joy and freedom, bringing smiles to everyone who did see it. When I’d see him all fast, sleek and tireless – I’d think to myself that is how I aspire to play the piano
someday! When I watch the great pianists Yuja Wang or Lang Lang, I think they play like Ricky ran – with a lot of joy and a lot of speed. The effort it takes to play well is more than repaid for in the freedom it bestows on a pianist.
Even tricker perhaps to describe is composing. When I mention that it feels like a vacation to me, most people conjure visions of swimming pools with umbrella drinks, and that is not at all what I mean. The essence of a vacation or travel is new experiences and a sense of surprise: Where will we go today? What will we do? The sense of curiosity that flavors vacation travel is a very similar feeling to what I experience when I compose: Where will I go today musically? What will I create? There is a sense of unfolding, new growth and discovery along with wonderment too. If I were a film composer, the director would tell me what was happening when, and how long it would last, but artists don’t really know where they will end up – the path/map/destination is unknown: we only have a vague direction of where we will go on any given day. But composing is also like laying the railroad tracks or building the car for that journey – it’s an incredible amount of time and work, but I can imagine that if you really liked cars it would be fun to build your own, and I bet that Steve Jobs kept persisting with his
computer creations because it was, at its core, a thrilling and creative adventure for him.
I’ve come to affectionately call springtime my “Composing Season” and it does seem to get started every year right about the time I plant my veggie garden. Every spring, I begin again – for the exploration, curiosity, excitement, challenge, discoveries and new musical growth it always brings, not because I need a new album, or have to create material for a tour, or a TV show. It’s always fun to head off without knowing where you will go, right? The virtual back seat on my composing excursions is filled with all my favorite artists along for the ride – Miles, Monk, Chopin, Jobim, Cole Porter, (the life of the party), Duke and Lady Day of course. Once again, it’s about time for me to wave bon voyage, as I head to my beloved Steinway in my breakfast
nook – time to sit in one place and travel through musical ideas: I wonder what I’ll create today? I wonder where this new path will take me?
Wishing everyone spring-around-the-corner weather, and a joyful start to new creations,