Robert Paterson | Composer

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Late Night Thoughts

Dropped Computer I have a lot on my mind lately, and the problem is that I have no time to write anything down. Ironically, I wrote a few short entries in the span of a few days, but I want to make a promise to anyone reading this—and mostly to myself—that I will write an average of one entry per week, which seems reasonable, particularly if they are short and readable.

Between finishing Winter Songs, being with Dylan who has a stomach virus, getting over a cold, chores, AME and misc. other distractions, I can't even find time to read, let alone listen to CDs I receive for AME. It is a shame, because I usually enjoy listening to what I receive, but I am considering not accepting unsolicited scores because I am having a difficult time finding time to compose. If I cannot compose, I start to feel ill. I am always happiest when I write every day (which involves some virtual performing as I usually sit in front of a keyboard), eat well, get some exercise, spend time with my family, and have a little down-time at the end of the day. If even one of those components is missing, I feel sick.

Here is something I think about: the distractions we have now are vastly different than what J.S. Bach or Mozart experienced. I'm not sure which is worse, distraction-wise, then or now—or can you even compare?

How ironic: in the Western world, we have cars, automatic dishwashers, generally clean food and water, laundry machines, electric lights, and elevators, and we generally live much longer (Elliot Carter is 100!), yet a composer today is lucky if he or she produces as much music in an entire career as Mozart did in one year.

Did Mozart have degrees? No. Did Beethoven have all the distractions we have now? Certainly not. Both composers worked within fairly limited systems, and limits encourage growth—any smart composer knows that—so they produced a lot of music. Granted, whole chunks of both Mozart's and Bach's music are crap and are only listened to because they are by the Gods, Bach and Mozart—there, I said it—but there are obviously many, many gems in those piles, works that have been and will continue to be cherished by millions.

What's my point? I think you will find more gems per pound from these guys than from almost all modern composers. I think that this is because they had more consistency in their daily lives and less exotic distractions. Yes, Bach had a bazillion kids, and children are definitely a distraction—albeit a lovely one—but it's just not the same. With technology, we have created one of humanities greatest ironies: time wasted and saved, all rolled into one. We have created a monster.

All of this leads me to believe that we all might be better off where we began, with organic family gardens and farms, no TV, no cars, close familial ties in smaller towns and the sound of a sharp pencil or quill pen cascading across a piece of parchment, with no way to cut and paste anything, unless you do it with scissors and glue.