Soon i will begin making the music for the Bonus Act.
Getting from the big idea and a myriad of details to actually sitting down and starting composition is Phase 2. Phase 2 is the process whereby a lot of little ideas and details are collected and placed so that somewhere along the way Structure emerges.
The structure of the story Arc is obviously key. I might be missing a bit in the late middle, but that’s fine. I can still start. Don’t ever plan out everything. Once actually in the flow good things can happen, better ideas can come than one can have mulling it over abstractly before work even starts.
Most important to beginning is that there is some song structure. Obviously the first song would be the really important one to have a structure for. Once again, not every detail is worked out, nor should be, but since my goal is to tell a 45 minutes story, i need to begin with way better ideas of what’s going to happen when than if i was just making an album of random tunes.
Phase 2 leads to the point where i can sit and go through the structure of the first song (or even better the first 3 as in the case here): i know we’ll open ambiently, conveying space and mood, get you to clear your mind. We’ll go into the drum bit, maybe build to vocal chanty thing, maybe not depending on where things go once actually making it. Soft, pretty with an ability to be sad celticy middle section of the song where the lyrics and lead character vocal section are, back into drum thing, get nice and intense, and… end with a soft bit that will serve as lead in to second song.
With it i i know what the hell to do and where to begin when i sit down in the studio. This ability to go through it theoretically extends in the same way to the larger Act. More missing bits for the larger Act maybe, but i can do a reasonable walkthrough, especially at important points.
Phase 2 is where we take all the ideas form all directions we’re inviting during Stage 1 and by the end have placed them and made a skeleton. My favorite part of this is when i’m sitting thinking about a bit i have up until a certain point, and when i get to that certain point, what to do next just falls right out of the air and lands neatly in place.
Bad ideas need to be discarded immediately. You cannot put them in the Structure you’re building in your head as place markers for later, better ideas. Better to leave the spot blank. An idea kept in place long enough will grow roots and be harder to see as casually, unattached to and thus discard.
With that said, some ideas i can have no idea how to pull off but just have faith i will. Those are okay as long as i don’t settle for a substandard idea of how to do it. Often when thinking about this type of idea i will think substandard ideas. It’s tricky. I must remain vigilant that i haven’t solved the problem and a better solution will present itself when the time comes.
From a character point of view Phase 2 progresses from having ideas about the character and character details to being able to slip into their point of view. Not do anything but see from their point of view and think of the type of musical moods and visual images i that come while doing this. Musical moods are certainly importnant, but the visual images are key to my process too. Woman on boat in mist. Underground caverns with archaic machinery. Fireflies in a cool photographic light circling a girl’s head in the dark. These images i like a lot. They inspire the music that will be built.
The music will be built by shooting an arrow in a particular direction and beginning to walk in that direction. Once the journey is underway, arriving at the arrow is irrelevant and for me personally, never, ever happens. Always, always, always the piece takes on a life of its own and i adjust direction to follow it. The less open i am to adjusting to suit what arises, the worse i do. Musical ideas before the actual compositional work is underway are not to be engraved in stone. Doesn’t work for me.
So there you go. My attempt to document the writing of an opera “act” (or in this case, album long opera instead of double album long opera) and Phase 2. What i’m writing is not some staunch rule i learned and follow religiously. I don’t normally think about the process with such examination of it. I’m only doing that now for the purposes of description and documentation. You know, for the hell of it.