The Music’s Not Finished ‘Til It’s Finished

Next week I head to Singapore. Slung Low is currently in the throes of making a show, Pandemic, for the Singapore Arts Festival. We’re out there for three weeks; the show is on during the third week. Can. Not. Wait.

Can’t afford the airline ticket over there? The online journey begins here: Don’t miss the personality quiz!

However, this week I’m working on the final stages of the score for another show – Keep – for the Converging Paths series, again with Slung Low (we’re really busy this year). Keep goes up on 3rd June, the Sunday after we get back from Singapore. One week. So that’s why I’m working on it now.

Tickets for Keep are free – click here.

Yesterday, I mixed the recordings we made with The 24 of the songs that feature in the Converging Paths series. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the feeling of giving my lines and dots to other musicians to perform. Somehow it makes it all the more real.

When I compose in the studio, with the computer playing it all back immediately on demand, there’s something fluid and easy about it always being editable, never completely completed… like the perfect version is always still possible because I can always go back into the file and tweak this parameter or that level.

Once you hand over to another musician, and they perform the music, and it’s recorded, two things happen.

1. They put their own stamp on it. Interpret nuances that you never imagined.
2. It becomes set in stone. That recording is done, for good.

Oh, you can record again, or perform it live… but still, you have to let that version go, let it be a final, separate entity. Also, just from a practical stance, in real life you can’t keep continuously editing and going back to the performers and the recording technicians and say, we’re just going to record this little bit again. It doesn’t work like that. Schedules, budgets, peoples’ patiences… rarely allow it. And even when they do, that original version is still there. Being finished.

It’s similar to the focus of having a deadline. Once the music’s produced, mixed, mastered and handed over, in theory it should be over, set in stone once more. But by having the arrangement files always ready to be dipped into at short notice – either if the client wants another version or tweak done quickly before the final dub or if somewhere down the line ideas can be plundered for future scores, there’s always the opportunity to change it. Always a, “what if?”

It’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It is what it is. But it happens every time I hand over the music to another real, live musician. That feeling of utter completion. This far, no further.

It’s a little terrifying, but, you know what… it’s also a blessed sweet release. 🙂