I am, have always been, and as far as I can see, always will be a composer. From my first realisations of how music worked, I have had fun with, experimented with, played with but most of all enjoyed sound. Some of this as music, some environmental, some beatboxing, some formal (to other composer’s specifications) and some that just arrives in my consciousness and will not go away until I have done something with it.
The business of being a composer is similar to many creative individuals, artists, writers, photographers, film-makers, potters, sculptures, designers, illustrators, sound designers, lighting designers, jewellers and play-writes to name a few, in that often it is a lonely journey from concept to fruition. There are many choices to be made during the creative process and very rarely someone to ask an opinion of during this time. One of the reasons I can now declare that ‘I am a composer’ is that I am confident in my decision making and the end result is a true reflection of my thoughts and ideas at that time. Of course these thoughts, ideas and processes are refined during the passing months and years but I am where I am now through experience, thought, listening and practice and I am pleased with the results.
Is my audience happy with the results? This is very difficult for me to measure but I know my music is still being performed (the Performing Right Society regularly send a list of titles, venues and dates of performances). People order sets of my music to perform and others commission work for their groups/ensembles so someone out there enjoys what I produce.
I am starting to embrace the social media age, continuing to upload music to SoundCloud for a small audience of followers but the number of downloads from iBooks (textbook material) during the last nine months has been the most surprising. Four thousand plus downloads to the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Europe and Scandinavia with some to South America and Africa has been very informative as to the extent that the international digital marketplace is a key component in a creative business. All this with no marketing budget, just a few tweets and Facebook comments for people to follow the link.
These days a digital presence is a necessity but the number of people showing their creations online is very large. The accessibility of software to create very good digital content, coupled with many free (or relatively cheap) opportunities to display these works, has encouraged many people to publish their creations to the world. A report written last year and included in an Association of Independent Music (AIM) bulletin, had figures of the number of uploads in one genre (dance) during one month which equated to a whole year’s releases in all genres fifteen years ago. When the majority of my income came from performing with bands and orchestras, I was in “the loop” and would hear about the next tour or show or band that needed musicians and it was easy to get an introduction or recommendation for work. Now, as an individual in a creative business, the networks of people you need to meet to promote your work are more difficult to find but they are still out there.
The last paragraph may not seem to offer much hope for a career as a composer, or any creative artist, as the competition has many ways to promote themselves, and of course so have you. Being a composer generates thoughts, concepts and projects that must be completed for your own solace, do not suppress the music inside that will not go away. Do not fight it or ignore it, but embrace it, use it, write it, record it and tell everyone about it. Some of the people you tell will be your audience for life and hopefully will support, encourage and criticise you. I feel a much more complete person for this, at peace with myself and would recommend that you keep creating to be true to yourself.
Getting to this state has not been easy, the first fifteen to twenty years have had many successes but also failures. From these I have learnt and adapted and even the failures had to be completed as the thoughts would not go away until they had been realised. I am an optimist, perhaps this has helped with the desire to keep composing and keep playing with sound and this will keep me getting excited with the arrival of a new idea. Your journey and experience will be different to mine but if you believe in your music, keep writing, composing, recording, performing and enjoying your creative self.
PS. After finishing the first draft of this blog, I just stood up to stretch and an idea arrived. The house had been quiet all day, no radio, CD or television had been trying to entertain, just conversations. There it was in my head, very rhythmic and dramatic, possibly from dance or theatre influences, I sang, clapped and stamped it until I was sure, then made a note of it and will be recording and playing with it next week. I hope to be able to show you some of the results soon, this is the main reason why I am a composer, the inspiration is there and I need to share.