We haven't talked a lot about the Precept STEAL FROM THE BEST. The chapter in the book talks about using other work as models or inspiration. Do you like how Beethoven uses that half-tone drop to shift gears? Me too: I use it repeatedly in my composition.
But there are other sources, and sometimes those sources are just completely random.
For example, a couple of weekends ago my Lovely First Wife and I were at an Irish pub in Raleigh, NC, and were seated in the "library," by which they meant a room separate from the bar and its soccer rowdies. True to its name, it had framed portraits of Irish writers on the wall and books on the shelves.
As we were waiting on our food, I of course browsed the books to my left. Some were obviously chosen for their connection to Irish lit, but most seemed to be Decoratoring™, i.e., bought at yard sales and thrown up there to fill the shelves.
In the latter category was the incomplete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was one of the older editions, from the 70s or 80s perhaps, and this is what caught my eye:
I don't know about you, but wouldn't Arizona Bolivar be a great name for a character in some kind of fantasy/sci-fi adventure? And Bolivia Cervantes?
Steal that. Once you see it, steal it:
Geraniales Hume. Jackson Livestock. Livingstone Metalwork.
Newman Peisistratus. Rubens Somalia. Taylor Utah. Piranha Scarfy (not shown.)
Those are some pretty great names there. Too bad I don't need them. Yet.
These kinds of random flashes of insight are gifts. Steal them. Once, late at night out in my labyrinth, the random shadows thrown up over the limestone bowl at the west point of the yard suddenly looked like falling debris, which registered in my brain as an idea for the opening of Dream Three of Seven Dreams of Falling, the opera I'm still working on about the Icarus myth: as the scene opens in the underground labyrinth of the Minotaur, the scrapped mechanism of Icarus's annual flight (now a pay-per-view event) comes crashing down from above, as it does every year.
Likewise, recently at a stop light, I was impressed with the sound of a gigantic dump truck with bad brakes which set up a tremendous vibration in the entire vehicle: the rumble grew and grew and finally exploded in a hiss of hydraulics. And that got scribbled down real quick on a sticky note (WASTE BOOK) for future reference/stealing, either for SUN TRUE FIRE, or as I think now, the musical opening of that Dream Three.
So stay open to these random gifts. Be prepared to notice them, and having noticed them, write them down immediately to use later. Go forth and steal!
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