It goes without saying, 2020 has impacted everyone’s lives in some shape or form. As a composer, I gain my inspiration mostly through live performance, and particularly in ensemble settings - a varied palette of colours and instruments is always refreshing for music creation. With the lack of performances since the pandemic, my main source of musical ideas has come from personal practice and improvising. At times this can feel quite limiting, but being in this setting has made me come to appreciate how much you can learn in reduced settings.
A valuable part of creating ideas has been through making regular recordings. This has been in the form of improvising on my double bass, recording sounds all around me, recording on Logic and generating a bank of musical ideas for later use. I never like to restrict my music creation through exclusively tried and tested means, but favour experimenting with something new and seeing what it yields.
One piece I posted recently, ‘Sleep Paralysis’, contains sounds that were created by accident. I was trialling a method of double bass bowing technique where I used clothes pegs on the strings to create a guideline for straight bowing. Who would have thought this rather wacky idea would create such strange and sinister effects? I can assure you the sounds were completely acoustic with no editing (except for a touch of reverb). If it didn’t have the required success as a means to aid bowing, it has at least generated a new instrument. Here is an example (before reverb was added) in the video below.
You can listen to 'Sleep Paralysis' on SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/patrick-phillip-794755128/sleep-paralysis
More recently, I have been recording notes on Double Bass and Violin, to create my own sound packs on Logic, and I found it yielded different results every time. This sound creation could be the process that sparks my next set of ideas, which is why I have been building this library of sound.
Unifying everyday sounds, practise and improvisation into a collection of recordings has helped keep writer’s block at bay. For me, being a composer is playing music and creating a sound library. Recording has been key to this, especially when there has been a scarcity of live music. It has served as a good way to break the silence.