What is This?
During the month of September 2015, I'm challenging myself to write a new piece for solo piano each day. Each day's piece will be posted on my website for free download to any interested performer. The thirty pieces produced by the end of September will be performed on a recital in November 2015 by pianists Michael Rector and Holly Roadfeldt.
There are several ways in which this kind of project appeals to me and relates to my current thinking about my creative process. Over the years, I've been inspired by a number of projects in this vein. Songwriter Jonathan Coulton quit his job in 2005 and embarked on a Thing a Week project in which he released a new song each week. Composer David Morneau created one 60-second piece each day for an entire year (!) for his 60x365 project. Composer Eve Beglarian has taken a longer view; her Book of Days is being realized more gradually, serving "as a record of one life lived over how ever many years [she ends] up being granted." While the parameters for each project vary, they're tied together by two common threads; in each scenario, the artist has in some way used time as the most important organizing property of his or her work - and has then created a community around his or her creative productivity.
The Time Thing
It's a widely accepted notion that limiting ourselves can enhance our creativity. If the sky's the limit, we can become overwhelmed by the possibilities and retreat into comfortable patterns of thinking to cope. When we work within defined limits, we're forced to be resourceful and to examine problems from fresh angles. On a technical level, making precompositional decisions about such parameters as pitch, rhythm, and length can help keep composers from staring into the abyss.
The other thing that helps? A hard deadline.
Here's the thing about a hard deadline: it's oddly liberating. When I don't have a deadline, I feel adrift. I get lost in the seemingly infinite possibilities of a project and overthink every detail. The "luxury" of time becomes a burden. However, when a firm deadline looms, the need to act helps to clarify my thinking. I can't sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. I can't wait for the perfect, uninterrupted block of time. I have to commit to a course of action, and once I do, one decision begets another...and another and another, until the project's intrinsic momentum carries me over the finish line. A deadline is, in the immortal words of Project Runway's Tim Gunn, a "make it work moment".
My theory is that having thirty hard deadlines in a row might teach me to agonize less and write more. There's only one way to find out.
The Community Thing
This is where you all come in. Here's how you can get involved:
• Contribute to my Kickstarter (launching soon - I'll announce it when it goes live) to help fund the first recital of all 30 pieces. Your contributions will go toward paying the amazing pianists Holly Roadfeldt and Michael Rector.
• Follow me on Twitter (@almamauler) for updates on the project. I'll keep you posted on my daily progress, and sometimes I'll even invite my followers to help suggest parameters for the piece of the day!
• Visit this site every day during the month of September. Each piece will be made available for free download, and I'll share my thoughts about each piece and the project as a whole along the way.
• Play the pieces and send me audio and/or video recordings! I'd love to make a gallery of performances! Send your contributions to almamauler AT gmail DOT com, and be sure to let me know how you'd like to be credited.
• Finally, please help spread the word about this project.
What Were You Saying About Caffeine?
Hey, don't judge me. It's a legal drug. It's just that fitting these pieces in while maintaining a family, a teaching load and a performance schedule is going to be a bit of a challenge. That's the point, after all. I suspect that my caffeine consumption will be going up a bit in September, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for #caffeinspiration.