The Wild Month of May

I was slightly shocked to realise that it’s been a full month since my last post. With each passing week, I kept thinking I had to update my blog, but I have simply been too busy. It is overdue at least a short update, however, so let’s get cracking!

May turned out an incredibly busy month, rather unexpectedly so, to be honest. I managed to fit one concert, two livestreamed concerts at Berwaldhallen, one appearance at a radio show, a number of different work-related meetings, teaching my private composition student, writing programme notes about three orchestral works and one concert programme, conducting a choir rehearsal on short notice, and on top of that plenty of time spent working on music – particularly the short-story opera I am creating together with my wonderful librettist.

In a sense, May is a fitting snapshot of what my freelance life can look like, when it is about at its most varied. It takes a lot of planning and organising to make everything fit together, both in my planner and in my poor brain.

I very much prefer focussing on one task at a time. Best of all would be if I can spend an entire day on one single task or category of tasks, rather than work on one thing for one hour, then another for two hours, a third thing for one hour, and then a fourth thing for whatever remains of the day. I’m sure at least some of you who read my blog can identify with that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if at least a couple of you don’t mind jumping from thing to thing – perhaps some of you even relish it (although I honestly find it hard to believe anyone could go that far!).

In particular, music composition is something that I like to dedicate entire days to. That way, I can either let myself dig down completely on those days when I get into a nice compositional flow, or to allow myself regular breaks if I keep getting stuck. For me, it wouldn’t work to go work on something else – such as preparing scores for livestreaming, writing a programme note, or practicing a score for singing – because that would take my brain out of the composing headspace. A short walk outside, folding laundry, washing dishes, perhaps reading a book or playing a game for a little while are some things that would let my brain ”off the hook”, essentially, for a while but not take away focus from the primary task.

Work on the opera has been progressing fairly smoothly in April and May, with one scene (out of four) being essentially finished and another one partway done as well. Several months ago – after settling on the plot, deciding on the overall structure of the story, and fleshing out the characters with my librettist, but before she sent me the actual libretto – I wrote several short instrumental sketches corresponding to various points of the story.

Writing those sketches was helpful for me to get an early start on thinking about what the music could sound like, it helped inspire my librettist when she was working on the text, and now that I have been writing the actual finished music to her libretto, I have already had excellent use of several of the sketches which I have been able to use as models for the finished music.

In a future post, I will give a few examples of this, how the initial sketches informed the finished music. In the case of the first finished scene, one of the sketches became more or less the basis for most of that scene’s music and composing that scene meant working my way up to the way that sketch sounded. I treated the sketch as the ”complete” version of that scene’s music and gradually built the music up toward that point. It was an interesting exercise in working backwards, but still looking forward…or something.

Composer, arranger and songwriter for performance, recording, broadcast and interactive media.