Monthly Archives: November 2010


This year at Brandeis, I’ve had the privilege of studying with Melinda Wagner, who is filling in for Davy Rakowski while he’s on sabbatical.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know her and her music, and getting a fresh perspective on my own work.  (If you don’t know her music, you should!)

One thing she has asked us to do is to keep a “composition journal”, writing a few short thoughts at the end of each day about our progress, how our session went that day, any frustrations or distractions, etc.  I’ve kept journals in the past (usually not for very long, or in any consistent manner), but I’ve never thought of keeping one specifically devoted to my compositional process.  It’s been 3 months, and I have to say I’ve found it to be extremely rewarding and insightful.

First and foremost, it holds me to task: forcing myself to write an entry each day I compose makes it all the more obvious when I don’t get time for a session, or forces me to confront disappointing or unfocused sessions.  It’s also a way of examining my compositional process, both musically and environmentally.  I can see, over time, what spaces are more conducive to productivity, what times of day I’m most focused, where and when I’m more/less likely to get interrupted, etc.  I can also work out, in prose, my thoughts and ideas for the piece I’m writing.  I’m a visual learner, so it’s good for me to be able to “see” what I’m thinking for the piece, and how it lays out on paper.  Forcing myself to answer questions about my work also helps solidify and confirm my overall vision, and reassures me that I do indeed know the piece.

Aside from these professional/creative benefits, there is something truly therapeutic about writing.  I love finding the right paper, the right pen, and watching the words form as I put them down (despite my horrendous handwriting).  It almost doesn’t even matter what I’m writing, just that I’m taking time to write something. It can be a sort of meditational experience – a time to sit quietly and reflect on the day, focusing on just this one task, which is not something that comes naturally to most of us, myself included.

In short, I’m a fan of journaling.  It’s something I’ll definitely continue in my own life, and I’ll encourage my own students (and blog readers!) to do as well.  In fact, I should probably stop blogging right now, so I’ll have time to write an entry…

Maybe there is such a thing as too much…

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