Michael Cooney/ September 1, 2010/ Composition, Music, Performance/ 0 comments

No, not a post about the first book of the Bible, or a throw-back to an 80’s rock group. I am speaking about the moment of creation – the initial spark of consciousness. As a composer, I have been grappling with this idea of genesis: Where do my ideas come from?

Did I create the music? I am beginning to feel that I am part of a greater consciousness, or stream of thought of which I am a small part. I am learning to listen to what seems to already be there, to already exist. No, I am not simply writing down what I hear, but describing it through music – and that is the magical part. Of course the interpretation of this, the infinite amount of variables among composers, allow for such a diversity of output. My training, musical taste, life experiences, etc, all effect how I listen to the world, interpret what I hear, and contribute back to the greater consciousness through my music.

The act of contributing back is not possible without performance – and there is an interesting dialogue that occurs here.  A composer interprets the musical soul through writing it down, and the performer is the one who further interprets the idea – This contribution back to the collective musical soul thus alters it by its mere presence. here I speak of influences.

It is easy for me to trace my influences.  While I love music from many composers, I have to say the composer that speaks the most to me, or whom, in my opinion, best communicated the abstract to me, is Ravel. Of course, I have been ‘influenced’ by many composers and styles of music, but the most influential to me would be the ’sound’ that most stirs my soul – and to me, Ravel captures something in his music that speaks to me as clear as day.  I don’t try to understand the abstract part of it, I just listen and enjoy it. Study and analysis certainly help shed light on the music – but usually only formally quantify that which I already felt in the musical soul.

To me, music always has an image associated with it.  In a sort of contrived ‘genesis,’ I decided to set a poem to music in order to get my creative juices flowing.  I picked up a collection of Emily Dickinson, and immediately settled on this one.


Will there really be a “Morning”?

Is there such a thing as “Day”?

Could I see it from the mountains

If I were as tall as they?


Has it feet like Water lilies?

Has it feathers like a Bird?

Is it brought from famous countries

Of which I have never heard?


Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!

Oh some Wise Men from the skies!

Please to tell a little Pilgrim

Where the place called “Morning” lies!


The irony does not escape me. The search for the ethereal morning (which is an entirely different discussion about the search for heaven in my opinion) is very similar to my longing to learn how to listen to the musical soul. As a student of music, I hope that I can better understand and grasp the process by which the great composers have created such masterpieces. I just need to keep listening – both inward and out – and hopefully that spark, or moment of creation will reveal to me something more – something unknown, yet intimately familiar.

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