Phase 2

05 Sep

underground cavern

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.



Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


16 responses to “Phase 2

  1. RRKiljoy

    September 9, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Have you considered doing kickstarter for the boxed set and extra act?

    • paulms

      September 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      I will simply sell the boxed set as a preorder (and print a couple extra copies just in case) since i can’t possible afford to print a lot and would absolutely need to know how many to print. The extra act i will sell on bandcamp as its own album (it will definitely be album length). So, i’m not going to kickstarter it. Pre orders will be good enough. I have never, personally for my own project, done a kickstarter. One day i may need to. I don’t want to use up kickstarter good will until that day.

  2. jrjbatts

    September 10, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for actually writing down your process. I’ve been working on writing some stories of my own for a bit now, and it’s nice to get some free looks into how others see their work.

  3. juliet fugman

    September 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Paul Shapera,
    My name is Juliet Fugman and I’m here to e-mail you a very good question. Will the New Albion Opera Trilogy ever be in other places besides in England? I’m asking you this because your work has inspired me to create a theater event for those who have high-functioning autism and give you and the School of the Performing Arts of the Richmond Community’s Erin-Thomas Foley a full dedication to it if the show is performed in places such as Richmond, Virginia. Hopefully, you may try to do something similar like this idea and e-mail me soon if you think this is a great idea.
    Juliet Fugman

    • paulms

      September 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      The show is performed wherever and whenever folks who love to make theater decide to create a performance of it. I’m just a lowly composer. I just write the thing. The putting up of it is not my forte and i grant permission to everyone who asks if they can put it up. There is no official run, no official tour. Wherever someone wants to put it up they can and i will provide them with whatever materials they desire.

  4. juliet fugman

    September 26, 2014 at 1:43 am

    What I meant to say is that you are considered an inspiration for me and to me, you are as popular as any other modern artist in America. The music you wrote gets me excited to hear great music as yours. I also want you to know that I have this estranged idea and remember that this is coming out of a mentally disabled teenager.
    One night last year in December I had a bad case of bronchitis and I couldn’t sleep and while I laid awake in bed I had a vision of me and some my friends that I worked with in SPARC’s Live Art doing all three of your magnificent works. At first, I thought it was nothing but a hallucination then I dreamt of it during the summer. If you think that this idea is crazy, so be it and let it go to the back-burner. Do you think that it would be a great idea for it going to Richmond, Virginia? Please let me know if it is a good idea and remember that is only a suggestion by a creative teenager.

    All the best,
    Juliet Fugman
    Age 16

    • paulms

      September 26, 2014 at 10:15 am

      I would love for it to go to Richmond, VA.

      • juliet fugman

        September 26, 2014 at 5:47 pm

        Are you serious? Because I think that I could be dreaming of you, saying it.

  5. juliet fugman

    September 26, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Really? I thought that I was totally crazy on that idea of your work going to RVA.

    • paulms

      September 26, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      There is nowhere i WOULDN’T want my work.

      • juliet fugman

        September 27, 2014 at 1:28 am

        Am I dreaming about your responses? I just feel like it is just something that I never hear from a great idol like you and for a long time, since I was a child my ideas are either rejected or too far-fetched. Now, I feel that all of a sudden it’s a great idea. This is an exciting thing here.

  6. juliet fugman

    September 27, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Oh, my God. I think that I am dreaming and I’m saying this because usually my ideas are rejected for no particular reason.

    • paulms

      September 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      I am an artist, most certainly real, and what i want most in life is for my work to reach anybody and everybody who might be interested and able to enjoy and be moved by it. WherEVER they may be. The back alleys of the Ural Mountains, the northern tip of Norway, the highways of Brazil and i assure you, the rooftops of Richmond, Virginia. I think i even visited an aunt of mine there once. I THINK it was Richmond, but i’m not absolutely certain. Anyway… yes, EVERYWHERE.

      • juliet fugman

        September 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm

        I find that as an inspirational and very moving speech on your wonderful work. You really are the greatest composer that I ever encountered.

  7. juliet fugman

    September 29, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Hm… *thinks* Maybe the DVD release of the Steampunk Opera featuring words from you behind-the scenes.

    • juliet fugman

      September 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      DVD’s can be a useful way to get your work everywhere.


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