My impulse to compose arose in junior high from an uncertain restlessness. It drove me to the piano to write. My early musical scores testify to a love of wide, open-voiced chords. And not too many. Minimal. Loud. I was a boy.
And I still love those chords today.
By high school, classical training ruled. Walls were put up. Silos built. Melody and harmony occupied their separate spaces. I went with it. I tried rock and jazz. Loved it. I cultivated my dark side as I best as I could.
My classical music got performed.
At the music conservatory, the classical method bore down hard on me. I froze up. Then, it was all about fast notes. Crazy exhibitions of fast.
Technique mattered more than emotion. Romantic harmony was passé. A fellow comp major burst into tears because they wouldn’t let him write “pretty music.”
I went electronic.
I discovered the power of analog voltage-controlled sound. Gear access was precious. Time was limited for undergrads. I used what I could. For my fall sophomore composition recital, I ditched the acoustic instruments. Presented a tape piece featuring crudely processed samples of our hippie house’s kitchen pots and pans. Pitched. Banged and tape echoed.
The French call it musique concrete.
My composition professor liked it. But almost no one else there did. When it finished, a couple of boos. Mostly awkward silence. The year was 1973. My musical start. And my end. For a while.
I became a radio personality. Played other people’s music for a living. On the side I finished a poly sci degree. And then law school. And for a number of years everything that goes with law world took front and center. But the muse wouldn’t stay away forever.
By the early 80’s, digital had arrived. MIDI. Suddenly you could orchestrate with synthesizers. Easily. FM synthesis was the cool electronic music technology. I built my first electronic studio. I learned.
Only family and a few friends heard my pieces. I was trying to figure out a place. I studied the reigning minimalist composers. Then, I discovered some different electronic sounds coming from what was labeled new age music. It was what I had been seeking.
I listened to those who led. I learned. I made new music friends. One in particular, Steve Roach, freed me from behind the bars of my classical music education. He showed me the keys to creation. He opened the door for me and showed me how to walk through it. That’s what some great artists do. They share and bring you along for the ride. I am eternally grateful to Steve for his friendship and leadership.
No more restlessness. I no longer wait to be inspired. I power up the studio and find my way. Some days more than others. Today, visual impressions feed my muse. My world opened up when I moved west to the edge of the Rocky Mountains. Like many composers before me, the space and light of the West truly zapped my head,
May it continue on.
Check out Kelly's new music on Bandcamp