Tuesday, May 22, 2007


One way we artists procrastinate is by doing other people's work. In my case, instead of composing my own music I transcribe and do copy work for other folks - other writers, singers, band leaders. This work consists of listening to a recording (anything from Bonnie Raitt to some schlock cabaret singer/songwriter) and notating what I hear. Then I create a nice legible version of the song using software called Finale - it winds up looking like printed sheet music.

I also take other people's full blown compositions and copy their hand written score into Finale and print out a professional looking score and parts. Right now I'm working on a bunch of scores from my friend AL who is dying of cancer. His String Quartet #1 is sitting open in front of me as I write this.

This copy work takes skill. Finale has a steep learning curve, as they say. But the actual doing of it is pretty damn dull. And it takes a lot of time. We all do things for money and the work I'm doing for my friend is also a labor of love, but...

What does it say about me that I make time to do other people's work but seldom "find" time to do my own? Pretty straightforward stuff, eh? Right out of Julia Cameron.

One thing that seems to help is to surround myself with creative people, which is why I like to hang out with musicians, writers, actors, artists of all stripes. I've recently asked a few colleagues who I respect how they get creative stuff done (with the demands of making a living, taking care of kids, all of the distractions of real life). My favorite answer came from JG, a brilliant saxophonist/composer. He said, "schedule a recording session." In other words, create a deadline for yourself.

The last time I witnessed a flurry of creative activity in myself was a few months back when some of my closest musical pals and I were preparing to record a CD of original music. We scheduled some rehearsals and I had to show up with something for us to play. I also wanted to make sure to have some "space" on the CD. One of the other guys is a prolific writer with a deep backlog of tunes to draw upon. Since this was supposed to be "our" project I didn't want it to wind up being only his tunes that made it onto the record. If that sounds competitive or petty, so be it.

I have a few things from years past that I still like and that haven't been recorded but I needed to spruce those up. Plus I really wanted to write some new tunes that reflect where I'm at musically NOW. And...it worked. I found myself with plenty of time and impetus to write some challenging new music. It was fun.

Meanwhile the project has been put on 'hold' because commercial projects have taken precedence in the ensuing months. And I haven't written anything since. How can I? Too busy doing other peoples work!