Composerly goofing off and “Hello?”

February 12, 2008


I don’t think composers can really write constantly without taking breaks. To a person on the outside, these breaks might look like “goofing off” but we composers know that you have to recharge your batteries.

Take big breaths.
Take a nap.
Have a meal or a snack.
Take a walk.
Run an errand.
Surf the web.
Putter in the garden.
Make a phone call.
Take a shower/bath/hot tub.


That way, when you come back, you are refreshed and able to carry on from where you left off.

Another common composerly ailment is the “Hello?” syndrome. During one of my composerly “breaks” I’m hearing the passage I’m working on playing over and over, or I’m stuck and I keep taking long musical jumps in my mind to get into the next phrase, when all of a sudden, whoever you are with appears in your face and says “Hello? Roger, anyone home? Where’s Roger?” I snap back into “reality” realizing how far away I was.

Our occasional compositional obsessions and absent-mindedness are usually harmless. With any luck a composer has a good mate who knows this side of their lover. Debussy once said “music is a jealous mistress” and I know that to be true. I have advised my students in my so-called “commercials:”

“…if your boy or girlfriend ever gives you an ultimatum like “it’s either me or your music” always take the music. Don’t spend your life with someone who doesn’t love what you do and who you are.”

[Photo: “Revelation” by Roger Bourland.]


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