Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blogger, interrupted

There have been those times when after merely typing the title of a blog entry I am called away by some unexpected obligation. Does this happen to you? You have just settled in to make use of some stolen bit of time to go on a creative jag when some other member of the animal kingdom, on two legs or four (such as the one currently out to steal the milk from my bowl of breakfast cereal) makes a demand on your time which may only take a few minutes, a few hours, or perhaps change the character of the entire day. This poses a difficulty for creative artists trying to concentrate on something they are trying to produce, compose, write, bring forth, et cetera.

There are known obligations aplenty as it is, and it is often hard to negotiate productivity around these. Sure, I'll think crossly, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote 15 symphonies, but did he have to mow his lawn?

The answer: no. Dmitri Shostakovich lived in a high-rise apartment and never had to work in the yard. He lived in a building with all the other Soviet artists, surrounded by the noise of instruments and in fear of being disappeared  by the Stalin administration for saying or doing something unpleasant to said comrade. But he had no yard work to worry about. Which also means no snow shoveling in the driveway in winter.

Domestic duties can, of course, suck up plenty of time, which is why many of our most celebrated composers not only did not own houses, they were also unmarried and had no children. Brahms, for example, or Beethoven. Beethoven, however, had a habit of moving frequently, which must have been a major time suck. He wrote 32 piano sonatas and moved some 67 times. Some of the can be accounted for by the fact that everybody moved out of the city in the summer to avoid the heat, and back again in the fall, usually to a new apartment. Of course, moving in those days wouldn't have been quite as complicated an affair, with less furniture for a bachelor and a lighter piano that did not take three linebackers to get up the stairs, though by the end of his life the piano was already starting to become the unwieldy monster it is today.

Bach, as you know, had 20 children, but he did not have to drive a single one of them to soccer practice. He also lived in an apartment and had no yard work. And his children actually served to copy out parts for him. If he had had Finale, he could have done it himself, which would have freed up his children to fight over who got the X-box and could have kept poor Johann Sebastian continually refereeing their squabbles.

Mozart only had one child, no yard, and could compose while playing Billards, according to the movie, though he seems to have been his own worst enemy when it came to physical fitness.

Anyhow, creative work tends to take long periods of concentration, and tends to suffer if it has to proceed in occasional snicks and snacks. Not to mention that that method can get a bit irritating.

Now what was it I was going to write about?

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