Poems & Quotes

Life is what I must create / my mind a cell I must escape / my frame a steed that I must break / my life a poem that I must stake. / To those who think that life’s a crutch / to them I say “get up, get up.”

“Why settle for mediocrity when you can strive for greatness?”

“The difference between an amateur and an artist is how well one can state the obvious in a new light.”

“No matter how many times life seemed to beat him down, he always managed to get back up with a smile; because to him, it was the greatest thing he could ever experience: the love of life.”

“Connotations will be the death of the English language.”

“I am giving you this choice; invest in your spirit, or in your flesh; either way, you will sacrifice a part of yourself.  The question is, which part can you live without?”

““Choosing ignorance is like choosing cheap booze;. it might get you buzzed, but it’ll more than likely kill you for indulging it.”

“When you write, you must take into consideration the perception of life and death. How will something start, and how will its actions influence its end? That is the basis of any good story line.”

“Pac-man is the definition of life; you eat until you die.”

-Brendan Moir

The Problem with the Avant-Garde

In my last post, I described how the art of composition is a relatively unoriginal practice and yet is continually changing due to the composer's interpretation of the art. I also covered how the Greats focused their efforts into their artistry (their interpretation of the compositional process) rather than technical aspect of the craft. However, the artists of the avant-garde (1945-90's), in an attempt to go against the Greats that preceded them, rejected the idea of artistry and therefore began to focus solely on the technical. Avant-garde music composers, for example, created sheet music that was so incomprehensibly notated and technically challenging that its sound was nothing but a conglomeration of unpleasant noises. In other words, this type of "music" wasn't created for the purpose of listening, but rather for the experimentation of notation; "music for reading" if you will. This rebellion against the past had one sole purpose and that was mainly to obliterate already established artistry and to replace it with highly specialized technical exercises. With that being stated--coupled with the points of my previous post--I can say without shame that the avant-garde--because it doesn't have definitive piece to help explain the style--cannot be considered "real" art.

This is not to say though that the works of the avant-garde artists are just complete and utter trash. Far from it! You see, the artists of the avant-garde were in fact one of the most creative generations ever to exist. They approached the highly elusive goal of greatness in the most unconventional and interesting ways; they tried to create something that was totally original by completely severing themselves from the past. Truth be told, it was a very noble effort... but it was highly unpractical. Try as one might, one can never escape the past. It defines every bit of our culture and our lives. It is because of the past that originality is unattainable. (...You could also say the same of perfection.) You see, the reason why avant-garde continually fails is because it focuses itself on the pursuit of these two unattainable goals (perfection and originality), and thereby reduces itself to an technical exercise and nothing more. For evidence of this claim just look at how very few Greats there in the avant-garde genre. Since there has been no definitive form or depiction of the avant-garde that the public willingly recognizes and accepts, it has failed to flourish as a genre. Because of its blatant disregard for artistry, the avant-garde doomed itself to an endless cycle of criticism. (If you do any research on the composer John Cage you will begin to understand the full scope of that statement.) Without incorporating artistry into one's work, the "art" of composition becomes a boring and repetitive process, ultimately reducing itself to a mathematical algorithm that produces haphazard and uninspiring products called "art". (Sound familiar music industry?) This then begs the question, "is this really composition?"

You see, the whole appeal of composition is the fact that it is so vague and undefinable; that there is no definitive way to create a “good” piece of art. Therefore, it can be inferred that each one of a composer's works can be viewed as their attempt at defining art. By continually trying to find "new" and "original" ways in which to organize their talents, composers continually manage to nurture their hope of creating/sustaining a higher form of art; they continue to nurture that hope of becoming great. This process of taking Order out of Chaos is what we as human beings strive to do--just watching a child at play will alone reveal that truth--but by intentionally calling random and unorganized chaos "art," one is going against our intrinsic human nature. I believe G. K. Chesterton said it best when he wrote, "the rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull, because in chaos [a] train might indeed go anywhere, but every time a train comes into its station, it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and man has once again won a battle against chaos.  No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a timetable, with tears of pride."

For us, Order may be one of the hardest targets to hit, but by combining our child-like creativity with our mature and adult understanding, we will always be able to hit that mark with a sure-fire aim. By drawing Order out of Chaos, we will always be able to supply the world with the manifestation of our creativity: our Art.

If there ever were to be a thesis for this essay--or better yet, a definite purpose--it would have to be this; by ultimately rejecting the principles of order, the avant-garde rejected the very principles of art. Until one can accept that Art is Order, one cannot create true art.

Let this be a lesson to the composers of the future.

-Brendan Moir

The Practice of Composition

Throughout my relatively short years of composition, I have consistently been amazed at how many possibilities the art holds. In truth, it is intimidating. How on earth is one supposed to create a coherent and original piece with an almost limitless amount of combinations? This truth is what makes the practice of composition exceptionally difficult to perform. Difficult, but not impossible. Oftentimes, those who thrive in the field of composition come to terms with the fact that originality is unattainable; every new composition is built upon the generation of work that preceded it, no matter how different of a shift it may seem (i.e. artistic revolutions, such as Stravinsky’s Sacre de Printemps and the Beatles’ introduction of rock). This does not mean, however, that each composition is carbon copy of its predecessor. Quite the opposite. The composer’s ability to make a piece of artwork their own is what the art of composition is. The process of personal application defines what our understanding of art is. For me, the compositional process is the act of exploring the unoriginal and making it new--building off the foundation of the past while speaking to the men of the future: creation through application.

The compositional process--as I have previously mentioned--is a constant battle between oneself and one's uncertainty. If an artist lacks to equip themselves with any sort of steadfast resolve, the power of indecision will cripple their efforts faster than anything else could. If equipped however, almost any artist--or any person for that matter--can supersede their uncertainties and ultimately influence reality. The desire to create--the need to create--is what separates the artist from the amateur; the intentional act of defining one's own desire is what any noteworthy composer has done/must do.

I, for example, was of the philosophy that I wanted to compose a perfect piece of art. I yearned to create a composition that could stand the test of time and speak to anyone and everyone who experienced it. But because of that, I was always dissatisfied with my work, and I would eventually take it upon my back as a failure and have it bear upon my conscience. Yet, as I continued to grow in my understanding of composition, I began to realize that my desire was/is not to make a piece that is perfect, but rather to make a piece that is great. Truth be told, a piece of art can be perfectly constructed and perfectly performed, but if it lacks that inexplicable connection with the human soul, it lacks indefinite greatness; it reduces itself to a technical exercise and nothing else. 

There is a reason as to why there aren't that many Greats in the world, and that is because unlike most artists--who are so focused on getting everything perfectly right, thereby completely missing the point of art--the Greats never place perfection over artistry. They look beyond the pretense of perfection and focus on conveying a piece of art that comprehensively captures some sort of connection with our human experience. This is why they are usually praised during their life time and remembered centuries after they've lived; they helped define what technique was rather than condemn themselves to it. (This is not to say they did not pay attention to technique, but more that they focused on making their art great rather than perfect, i.e. a technical exercise.)  The attainment of greatness is not an easy undertaking--in fact, it is probably one of the hardest peregrinations to ever attempt--but in the end, it is probably one of the most desirable goals, if not the most desirable, for any true artist to pursue. 

So, as you compose, perform, or even review, always search for that little bit of greatness that will make your work your own. Do not obsess yourself with the false ideal of perfection, but rather focus the entirety of your soul into your artistry. Don't feel dejected if people dislike your work or even despise you for it, because in the end, you have managed to influence reality in some way, shape, or form, and that is the beginning of anyone's journey towards greatness.

-Brendan Moir