(Part Two of my orchestration revelation)
Lovers of Richard Strauss (and all horn players) know the famous theme from Don Juan. It’s a great melody and a stirring moment in the piece. It’s such a well-written and well-orchestrated tune that it can be enjoyed on its own.
But it doesn’t really have any meaning heard in isolation. It’s all the little moments that lead up to it, the foreshadowing of the theme, the atmospheric pauses before the great passionate gasp, that set us up for the great release, the wonderful mug-swinging ride down the hill. And then we have the rest of the music to help us think about it, put that ecstatic moment in context, reduce it to something we can understand in ourselves.
As a creator I’ve always found it perplexing that I can create quality works of art and yet fail to get any attention from them. If my song is great, shouldn’t it change the world? What’s Bruce Springsteen got that I haven’t got?
Well, assuming that any of my songs are as good as any of his, it’s still not enough. Bruce has a story that he’s been telling since he was 16, and every time he goes up on stage we can see it. He’s done the work to prepare us for each moment, and he keeps on doing it.
We cheer for him because we remember when the scruffy guy who’d been in blues bands for 10 years finally got his shot and knocked it out of the park. Jon Landau said, “I have seen Rock’n’roll’s future and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen.” Slow pitch, good swing, home run.
If I write a new song, go on stage and perform it, nobody cares that much, because who am I beyond just another guy writing songs? Even if the song is great, has anybody been following me, and is anyone waiting for it? The only story I have to tell is “look what Adam did today,” and that’s not very compelling.
When Bruce writes a new song, people have his whole career as a songwriter to fit it into. His story is very well-controlled and nearly everything people know about him and every song he writes feeds back into it. He continues to succeed well into his 70’s because he is a master at telling that massive story, so that each new element he brings out has been well-prepared with triumphs and setbacks.
My vast output of unrelated songs, stories, poems, pictures, blog posts, can’t really compare. I’ve created a story that no one can follow. I haven’t done the work of preparation and follow-up, but I’ve expected people to admire my “Don Juan” themes.
Assuming my health holds out, it’s not too late for me to start crafting that story, paying attention to what people see of me before the home run swing. I have to prepare my audience for my big moments, both in a small concert setting and in the larger picture of my life. Then, maybe, I’ll start to get the kinds of reactions I’m looking for.
Am I making any sense? Is my new realization a nice turning point in the story I’ve been telling through these blogs? Or am I just missing the big picture again?
News From a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books
I'm included in three new features from my friends at UpJourney
You can see these and others on my press tab.
Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Author, educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net