I’ll be honest – I’ve only been composing a relatively short while in comparison to a lot of other composers on here, so I don’t think that my creative process is in anyway matured – its probably all over the place and changes every time I create a score, or even music in general. I believe that I don’t have enough experience in composing yet, to think about my own creative process and see what it looks like, so while I was thinking about what to write about in this article, I started looking into the psychological side of the creative process, and look at some literature on the subject. I think the actual reasoning behind why and how your brain does something c an be a real eye opener in some topics of conversation, and I think its the case here also.
Do “successful” people have the same creative process, or does it change from person to person, and even project to project. As I was searching for information on the psychological aspects of creativity, I came across an interesting article on “Creativity Models” and the literature that has been written on them in the last century. One creativity model that caught my eye was that of Robert Fritz in 1991.
Fritz wrote about a model called the “Process for Creation” (PFC) which reflected the stages in creative thinking, and creativity. These steps are found below:
I looked at the model and wondered – “does this reflect the process of composers while scoring for a film or even when creating music for any type of media/medium”. Below is my thoughts on how this creative process model works in relation to scoring – maybe your thoughts on it will be different – let me know!
Conception - “Something conceived in the mind; a concept, plan, design, idea, or thought”
You’re handed the film, and watch it tens of times over. In your mind you start to hear sounds, musical lines, instruments etc. over different scenes and start to get a rough idea of what you’ll be doing for the score (varying degrees of roughness ranging from “I haven’t a clue” to “I know exactly what I want to do here”)
Vision – “The manner in which one sees or conceives of something”
You have a rough idea of what you want, next is something that I have read about a lot, and tried a number of times – it applies to all areas of creativity, and even goal setting. You have to see (or hear) the end result. You have to be able to imagine the finished product as though its right in front of you – know how it sounds, feels, looks. The more vivid your vision of the end product or goal, the more likely you are to be able to make it a reality. I read an NLP book once by Tony Robbins where he describes how he asked a number of successful people how they saw their goals. He said that all of those people were able to literally feel, smell, touch and hear their goals – they were able to sit in the ferrari they wanted, and know the smell of the leather. That strong vision of the end goal made it more real for them, and a lot easier for their brain to process just how to make it happen for them. Long story short – having a strong vision of your end goal helps your brain to figure out what needs to be done in order to reach that goal.
Current Reality – “Determining the availability of the tools and expertise required to complete the job” (my definition at least!)
You have a vision of the end result – you know what it is going to sound like (either a rough or detailed idea) – but you have to figure out what tools are required to complete the job. Things to be taken into consideration are time, software, money, talent, relationship with director (does he like your idea?) etc. For example, your vision of the score is of a beautiful symphonic piece scored on the Newman Scoring Stage with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (not sure why they’d be in the US, but you never know!). Of course unless you’re a multmillionaire and know a lot of people to pull the strings, this isn’t become reality, and if you continue to try and pursue this goal, it will most likely end in tears. You need to evaluate the tools available to you, and determine if your vision of the score can become a reality, for example, within the confines of your schedule. If it can’t, then you need to re-evaluate the vision, and sculpt it to suit the reality.
Take Action – “Just do It! (Nike)”
I don’t think we need to go into great detail here do we? Probably the hardest of all the stages of creativity – actually doing it. Deliberation is a great killer at this stage, aswell as a short attentio…what was I saying? You know what you want at this stage, you know you can do it – just do it!
Adjust, Learn, Evaluate, Learn - “To gain knowledge, comprehension, or mastery of through experience or study”
This, in my opinion, is where the director enters the picture once again – you show him/her your mockup of the score and get some feedback. You run back to the cave with the feedback from the director, and compose compose compose. You learn from the feedback, from the numerous hours of composing put in during the project (where you might learn new tricks, ideas, tips etc.) and from the whole experience of working on a film score. I think subconciously, no matter what task you are doing, you brain evaluates for you, and you’ll most likely remember the next time you do that task, what worked, and what didn’t.
Building Momentum - “Impetus of a nonphysical process, such as an idea or a course of events”
The score is due in 14 hours, and you’ve already been at it for a straight 12 hours today. We all know that feeling of impending doom – its in those last few hours that you’ll get some of your best work done in my experience. Everyone is different, but I know I am one of those people who loves a nice deadline far away, but will only do the work once I start to realise “oh crap…its like due in less time than I have to do it!”. (its a trait I’m working on!). Its a nice feeling though being on on a roll, with the music flowing out of you like a runny nose on a winter’s day! In the process of a film score, for a composer, a lot of things happen at this stage I think. You’re preparing to get a live recording done (if you have the budget), you’re sending off your music to the orchestrator/copier etc. It all starts to come together and you get mixed feelings of “I can see the end” and “oh dear god, I hope this works!”
Completion – “The act of finishing or the state of being completed”
Relax, the work is done. Get some sleep, see your girlfriend, open the curtains and let the sunlight in for the first time in how long?
Living with your Creation
This is an interesting part of the process that Fritz included, and I’ve been thinking about it most of the day today. In the last 1 or 2 years, I’ve interview a number of composers, ranging from amateur to professional, and asked them all the same question – “Do you find that when you’ve finished a cue/score/track, you’re sick of hearing it?”. You’d be suprised the range of different answers I’ve received – from “I can’t stand listening to it” to “Yes of course! I love it!“. I think being happy with your creation is quite an important part of the creativity process – perhaps even one of the most important parts in the long term. If you’re not happy with what you’ve done, and you can’t stand back and go “Yea…this is awesome, and I created it”, then in my opinion you won’t be happy with yourself and your ability to do the work in the future. Sure we’ve all done some crappy work at some stage of our lives, but you can at least see the potential in what you’ve done, and be happy with that at the very least.
Tell me in the COMMENTS what YOU think about this model – total codswallop or bang on target?