Composing music—driving hazard?

July 13, 2012

I am a notorious space case when it comes to driving. It started when I was in my first car accident when I was 17. I was driving through the suburbs of Green Bay, singing my heart out when BAM, I was broadsided by a car and I spun onto a neighbor’s lawn: no injuries, just a big car repair bill.

I was riding my bicycle home from Harvard in 1980, singing my heart out when the right side of my handle bars caught the fence post along the Charles River and BAM I went flying down, smashed my knee and head. I walked back to Boston with blood all over my face, looking like I just stepped out of Carrie.

I should have known the problem returned a few weeks ago I was in my car, moving from side to side, nodding my head, dancing in my seat, when I looked out the window and saw a rather droll looking woman glaring at me. She evidently thought I was nuts as I was dancing to music in my head.

Last week after a long several days of composing I drove to pick up a friend at the airport. I nearly had two accidents. The first one didn’t happen as I looked in front of me and saw only printed music. I was composing music and the windshield turned into staff paper. I slapped myself realizing that this was not real.

Then I started imagining the finale of Act 1 of my opera; I saw the stage, I heard the music, it was overwhelming. I started crying and my heart started racing. When this kind of thing happens when you drive, it’s called “velocitization” and manifests itself as you driving faster and faster as you are involved with something in your mind. The poor woman ahead of me pulled over to the right as I had clearly glommed on to her and was on automatic pilot.

These stories may be amusing, but I realized that I must not try to compose while driving as it is just a dangerous as drunk driving, if not more. The solution I think I’ll try is to turn on the radio. That kills almost any kind of creativity that happens in my head.

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