A Day in the Life of a Film Composer

On of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a composer is dealing with the lack of structure of freelance work. I’m engaged in a never-ending battle to impose a daily schedule on my life, which tends to swing between the poles of overwhelming monsoons of work and anxiety-ridden droughts. But maybe for this matter, just like for musical inspiration, we can all look to the great masters for a little guidance. Here is infamous daily schedule of the legendary composer Erik Satie:


A Day in the Life of a Musician
by Erik Satie

An artist must regulate his life.

Here is a time-table of my daily acts. I rise at 7.18; am inspired from 10.23 to 11.47. I lunch at 12.11 and leave the table at 12.14. A healthy ride on horse-back round my domain follows from 1.19 pm to 2.53 pm. Another bout of inspiration from 3.12 to 4.7 pm. From 5 to 6.47 pm various occupations (fencing, reflection, immobility, visits, contemplation, dexterity, natation, etc.)

Dinner is served at 7.16 and finished at 7.20 pm. From 8.9 to 9.59 pm symphonic readings (out loud). I go to bed regularly at 10.37 pm. Once a week (on Tuesdays) I awake with a start at 3.14 am.

My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coco-nuts, chicken cooked in white water, mouldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with the juice of the Fuschia. I have a good appetite but never talk when eating for fear of strangling myself.

I breathe carefully (a little at a time) and dance very rarely. When walking I hold my ribs and look steadily behind me.

My expression is very serious; when I laugh it is unintentional, and I always apologise very politely.

I sleep with only one eye closed, very profoundly. My bed is round with a hole in it for my head to go through. Every hour a servant takes my temperature and gives me another.


Source

And here is a Spotify playlist for those unacquainted with Satie’s eccentric music, from the famous Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes to some deeper cuts.

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Indian-American Jazz Musicians Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa on Identity, Community, and Belonging

I’ve been following the careers of Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa for a while. What inspires me about them, even more than their music, is their continuing determination to place their art within a larger context, to relate it to current events and pressing questions, and to use their success to shine light on vital issues. Iyer, in collaboration with poet and hip-hop artist Mike Ladd, has created large-scale works investigating fear and surveillance in airports post-9/11, critiquing and satirizing the 24-hour mainstream news cycle, and expressing the dreams of young veterans of color. Mahanthappa has released albums addressing stereotypes of Indians, exploring the ways that modern technology affects communication, and relating the history of Britain’s “South Asian Middle Passage” that enslaved South Asians for labor in the plantation economies of the Caribbean.

What also strikes me about Iyer and Mahanthappa is their commitment to grappling with their unusual and complicated place within jazz’s racial landscape: from encountering racism from critics, to confronting their own privilege as non-Black artists within a Black medium, to navigating the pitfalls of self-exoticization and inauthenticity. The road they continue to travel on is difficult and requires a lot of reflection and often humility. It’s actually a good microcosm of the situation that we as Indian Americans find ourselves in today, in a country where, as Vijay Iyer puts it, “to succeed in America is, somehow, to be complicit with the idea of America—which means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past.”

Here are a couple articles where Iyer and Mahanthappa discuss these issues at length, and talk about their friendship and their seamless chemistry as musical collaborators:
1) Dual Identities: A Conversation with Jazz Soulmates Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa (Pitchfork)
2) Sangha: Collaborative Improvisations on Community (Critical Improv)

Some excerpts: Continue reading

#BlackLivesMatter meets Classical Music

From Bitch Media, here’s an interview with Courtney Bryan, composer of a work dedicated to the memory of Sandra Bland, a Black woman who was found hanged in her jail cell in Texas in 2015. The piece, called “Sanctum”, was a commission for an activist orchestra called The Dream Unfinished, which premiered the work in a concert last summer.

I love the use of extended techniques to give the orchestra some fresh new colors, and the bluesy phrases based on the pentatonic scale which recall John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” (That may or may not have been intentional…) The work as a whole has a meditative, almost sacred quality, even though the subject matter is so raw, full of anger and heartbreak.

 

For more, here’s a list of 10 Black composers to check out. (Guardian)

And another list of 10 Black women composers. (Bitch Media)