Recently my music was forwarded to a high powered game composer agent.  I heard him speak at the TAXI road rally in Nov. 2009 and he explicitly said that he didn’t need anything he already had, and to avoid sending him anything like that.  In the process of doing research on game music in preparation for writing for the listing, it struck me that I really couldn’t get away with parroting various styles from different game scores I heard.  Of course, one has to be in the “ballpark” stylistically when submitting to something like this, because getting in the door this way one has to show some stylistic “fluidity” as a professional composer.

All of this thinking led me to the realization that the best, most successful, composers have mastered the art of writing what the client wants and at the same time bringing something of themselves to the music.  This is a delicate balance and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that the craft is the art.  The craft is what supports the art, and some of the music will sometimes be a larger percentage of craft than art, depending on the circumstances, but there’s always something of the artist embedded in the music.

Basically a client can “smell” when something isn’t authentic, and I don’t mean authentic stylistically, but authentic in it’s intention and creation.  It’s easy to call up a synth patch and put on an arpeggiator, it’s infinitely more difficult to put one’s own stamp on that relatively simple material.

So what’s the secret to bringing one’s “voice” to the table in everything one writes?  I believe it’s beyond the music, and it’s the way a composer lives and thinks and considers their art and craft.  With art, I believe that a true artist is an artist in every moment of their life, whether it’s taking out the trash or talking on the phone or composing a 1 minute piece for a commercial or a 15 minute symphonic tone poem.  If the composer, no matter what style or gig they are engaged in, brings their entire self to the proceedings and doesn’t mentally or emotionally diminish the work depending on what they’re asked to do, then automatically the work will be infused with something more than just the surface elements of style, groove, etc.

There’s a lot of talk at times of “being in the moment”, and I think the act of practicing that “in the moment” consciousness is what makes the difference between a pedestrian, competent piece of commercial music, and something that moves the listener in some way.  The awakened composer will, even if they don’t realize it, be putting some extra special energy into the music that will make it stand out from the crowded lists of music on production music library websites.

Call me a utopian, or just plain nuts, but I believe that we can bring the sum total of ourselves to bear in every moment, if we’re only willing to let go of preconceptions and past conceptions.