A Gloriously ADD Musical Summer

I never considered myself a geek; but I may be slightly off there, since at least one part of me sees “ADD” and thinks “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.” So be it; that’s not the ADD I mean (and yes, that’s two semicolons in the first paragraph, which is now through.)

I am sitting on a porch overlooking Sylvester Cove in Deer Isle, Maine, thanks to the hospitality of some good friends – a composer/writer pair to which we feel some considerable kinship. This is a pause, a caesura if you will, amidst a musical summer that is proceeding willy-nilly in no fewer than three directions at once. I had a vision for the summer in the early going, and to date I am on track. It went something like this: May-June, compose chamber music; July: record opera demo and perform chamber music; August – be a rock star and then go on vacation.

In May and June I DID compose chamber music. Two pieces, totaling 17 minutes, which is bountiful for me in a short time span. I am only slightly sad that I did not keep up the composing momentum into July, but it was not my plan to do so. I think I am coming to terms with the pros and cons of being quite obviously ADD (the other ADD) – needing to have multiple balls in the air at any given time, needing to be able to shift foci, to nurture wildly different projects and just keep bouncing from one to the next. This probably hampers my overall success in any one given field, I imagine, but it is also likely beneficial for my development as a human.

In particular, I have loved concentrating on performance in a more prolonged and disciplined way than I have in a very long time. There is something so essential about performing music, feeling it come to life under your hands, taking responsibility for your own actions (with the pen, or the metaphorical pen, as it were). In the old days, I composed music at the piano, and could really play some semblance of any piece I was working on right there, from memory.  Then, gradually the computer took over my process – first just in the engraving stage, and bit by bit in the composing stage too. Now I write exclusively at the computer, only occasionally checking a harmony on the ivories. This means I work faster, activate more complex textures, but don’t experience the real physicality of music-making in my process. For the most part, this is probably healthy, but it leaves me searching out other avenues for physical mus-emoting.

The wonderful upshot of right now for me is, in this first Summer in nearly a decade where I don’t have an opera weighing heavily on my consciousness (the completion of an opera, anyway – I still have the placing of an opera on the brain), my days have been varied and filled with music. I am moving closer to integrating the vastly disparate musics that have always tickled my brain. Last week I had a particularly nice stretch of days. On Monday evening I gathered with several former and one current graduate student and we shared our efforts for the Rapido composition contest (about which I’ve said nothing in this space – and won’t until the semi-finalists are announced on August 6); then I spent the next day editing the big demo of The Summer King’s Mexican scene I’ve been assembling for a good several months (very nearly done w/ that); then that evening we had a rehearsal of my new piece Takes One to Know One – which I think I’ve yammered about in this space (and will be premiered in Brunswick, Maine on July 26), and then Wednesday night my rock band, Lovers of Fiction, rehearsed. Of course, interspersed with all these vibrant and soul-stimulating activities were copious helpings of childcare and some managing/grading of the on-line course I’m teaching now (all vibrant and soul-stimulating too, if differently so).

I am musically happy right now – for this little slice of my life anyway. And it’s because my ADD-addled brain is being allowed to jump from thing to thing. I have increasingly little patience for music genre snobs. Those who hate classical, or hate rock, or hip-hop or really anything. The different musics exercise different parts of our brains and bodies, the best exemplars of any genre are always worthwhile, and usually wonderful. I wonder how people who truly love music, or claim to, can confine themselves to only one variety. Privileging the mind or the body, always at the expense of the other, feeling superior because you’re pushing yourself that much less toward full capacity? I am, I suppose, a relatively haphazard musician, living a relatively sloppy musical life. But if not a master, if only a jack, I am a joyful jack indeed.