Two nights ago, after some frustrated attempts at musical composition, I decided to see how efficiently I could simply take dictation from my mind. Automatic writing, except there’s nothing all that mysterious about automatic music. What I ended up writing was a long stream of just I’s IV’s and V’s (and one VI) and sounds like something out of an 80s kid’s movie. Which is sort of how these things always turn out for me.
I don’t think it’s arbitrary. Deep at the heart of my sense of music is the musical culture I experienced when I was young. I don’t consciously think about that music very often but it does tend to come to the surface when I’m letting things fall where they may.
On the one hand I feel like I came through my 80s childhood having become attached to a lot less of the pop culture than most of my peers. On the other hand I think maybe this stuff worked itself even deeper into me; I feel like a tune like this is still “what I’m made of” in some way, whereas everyone else seems to have long outgrown it.
I’m oddly getting a lot of satisfaction out of having written this. It feels like it gets at the essentials, which might be laughable but there it is; it’s true for me. Strange to realize that I am internally, forever, marked as a product of the culture of my early childhood, since that culture seems so distant now, even to me.
Also, stuff like this makes clear that while my conscious composing – generally derived from quasi-visual or abstract notions – is often a little pungent, my inner music box itself is not actually very sophisticated. When I shut up and listen to it, it only seems to know about a few simple chords, and in root position.
Again, you have to understand that when I wrote this, I was not trying to do a period pastiche. I was just humming what I wanted to hum.
Instrumentation was admittedly influenced by what it sounded like to me consciously.