About that handwriting...

On Friday I wrote about chatting with a young composer, and I mentioned that his musical handwriting resembled mine at that age, about 14.  On a whim, I went to the storage unit and found one of my oldest music notebooks:


How studiously "accurate"!  Of course I had no concept of rough papers/WASTE BOOKS; I wrote it to be read by someone who could actually play it.  (Full disclosure: I do not play the piano, although the extreme simplicity of the bass line suggests that I might have been aiming for something I could handle.)

I would have pounded this out on the old, blackened upright in our living room, probably driving my family mad in the process.  Ah, youth.

Would you like to hear it?  Of course you would: Theme, by Dale Lyles.

If a young composer brought this to me today, I would recognize that although the piece is simplistic in the extreme, the boy (or girl) already had a sense of form.  I would suggest some ways to vary that bass line (and to fix that harmonic howler in m. 29).  I would recommend to his (or her) parents that they encourage him to continue writing, and that they insist on piano lessons. If at all possible, he should also get music theory/composition lessons.

Here's what my musical handwriting looks like now:


The lefthand page is an ABORTIVE ATTEMPT; the righthand page is a sketch for "Easier Piece No. 4 (Tango)," one of the Five Easier Pieces which can be found here.  (They were written as a sequel to, and partial apology for, Six Preludes (no fugues).  Would you like to hear it?  Of course you would: "Easier Piece No. 4 (Tango)," by Dale Lyles.

The point is that just like our handwriting, our artistic abilities grow and change the more we keep at it. Nearly 50 years separate these two works—just think what I'll be able to do in another 50!

Create all the crap you can and keep creating it.  Eventually you'll be able to look back at the early crap and say, "Wow, that's some crappy crap.  I'm glad I'm writing better crap now." 

It's almost as if our entire creative life were one long SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.