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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Sunday, January 3, 2016


I was reading this book called Flow, that my daughter had when she was visiting me last week. Anyway, it made me realize that the best hobbies are those that produce active, creative experiences. My relatively new hobby of writing music is one such activity. I'm less interested in the purity of the flow experience than in the general mechanism.

The book explained why unstructured free time makes so many people unhappy, including academics. Having to schedule one's own days is very difficult. I have decided to optimize this by spending almost all my time writing, composing & playing music, cleaning & organizing, socializing, and exercising.

Down with random internet surfing. I will still do crossword puzzles. I will listen to music, but in more structured ways.


I am setting my own version of a Lorca poem to music. I took the images from a poem and wrote half of the lyric from that, using a melody I have already. I plan to do this with several poems and make that into a cd, recording piano and drums parts and singing.

My other cd will be a combination of Rodgers & Hart songs with my own originals.

My idea is to connect the impressionist side of Lorca (his interest in Debussy etc...) to a Bill Evans style harmonizations. This is a nuanced, graceful Lorca, where subject positions ebb and flow (the Suites). The music is related to an idea I am developing about the subject positions in his poetry, his use of pronouns and deixis. I think this Lorca should be approached chromatically, through a lot of shifting, nuanced, tight-knit harmonies.


The challenge is formidable. I have to develop keyboard skills to the point where I can play what I write. I have to teach myself some more harmony, and learn the other keys I don't know. I have to learn to sing better, figure out music notation (& music notation software), and recording technology. This all seems doable to me, once I put my ego aside. Contrary to popular belief, where ego most interferes most is when you are bad at something. The fear of being perceived as inept prevents further progress. Oddly enough, when I am composing music I have no such fear. Instead of thinking, "Why am I so bad at this," I think "why does that chord sound wrong there?" Or, "did I write that down right or not?" Or "how can I do something more interesting in these two measures?" Other people seem to like my songs, so there's that. The song seems to be exactly what it is whether other people like it or not. The challenges are what makes it fun. For example, I notice in the second half of the bridge I am always at a loss for good melodic ideas while trying to resolve back down to the final chord. I get stuck in a kind of harmonic "crunch" and as a result I repeat ideas from one song to the next. There are many other problems that I could describe to you quite cheerfully.