There’s another line in another article by John Rahn (If you haven’t guessed I like his writings):
There is a positive joy in perceiving a flawlessly intricate musical structure, one which leads the mind to startling discoveries as it is unfolded, offering depths upon depths into which we peer, within which we play, but which are never exhausted, never leave us low and dry.
This is not the flash of a Richard Strauss, not the meretricious craftsmanship of the mere technician, unconnected to the wellsprings of his human existence; it is, rather, the kind of craftsmanship that apes the divine, or from which the notion of divine creation is extrapolated. (“What is Valuable in Art, and Can Music Still Achieve it?”)
A bit of backstory…I started out my composerly life, as do many others, as a performing musician. My teachers played in the orchestra near where I grew up, they played studio gigs in the area, and when I entered college,it was thought I’d follow in their footsteps. That’s all I knew. A high school orchestra director routinely quipped that art and fifty cents would get you a cup of coffee.
I’m not here to debate commercial/entertainment music and “high” art. My inner ethnoid tells me that both have their places (I do write about video game soundtracks, after all). Instead, I’d like to describe something more personal, namely why I’m in the field I am, and why I can’t be a part of the commercial musician’s world. The last sentence of Rahn’s passage sums it up for me. I’m devoted to a kind of creation,”from which the notion of divine creation is extrapolated.”
But when I was facing a lifetime of being in the “business” of music, studio gigs, wedding parties, and the like, the feeling of being “stuck” in the situation was oppressive. I was just begining to discover that I could write music, and it was (and is) something I barely understood, but knew that this was something special, which if I chose to accept it would mean a radical repositioning of my life. It also offered the prospect of something else.
I don’t know where I’m going. When I started grad school, I had no idea that other people like me–composers–existed. The more I come into contact with it, the less I understand about the ability to write music. But I can’t help but be humbled–and a little frightened–of the chance to peer into the kind of creation which Rahn describes. It’s a kind of creation which changes me as much as the thing I’m writing.