Un-stalling the Secret Project

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In the film “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts,” the composer gives the filmmakers (and the audience) a peek into his daily life. Early in the morning, he arises, retreats to his studio and works for several hours. His studio space is a beautiful room, with a well-worn grand piano, a large writing surface and stacks of music and books. It is well-inhabited but not cluttered. In interviews and writings, he speaks of the importance of writing every day, and watching his daily ritual, you can see how he has provided the structure needed to do so. He has a specific time set aside each day, and a friendly, conducive workspace in which to immerse himself. In short, he has set himself up for success with his daily work.
Some people dream about scenes in movies involving Dragons or Owen Wilson, but I often find myself daydreaming about Philip Glass’s studio space and daily schedule. I am a huge proponent of writing every day, and I know the importance of having a good workspace, but both are currently luxuries that I am unable to afford with any consistency. I share a rehearsal/performance space with a number of other musicians, and have to grab time when I can manage it. Also, my schedule is erratic and requires flexibility for teaching and other things that come up, so establishing a writing routine tends to be a challenge for any extended period of time.
Case in point, the “Secret Project” (as I have been calling it), has suffered a bit as the result of the recent absence of a regular writing routine. Initially, I was working on it 3-4 days a week and I managed to produce about 25 sketches during the initial weeks of work. Then a bunch of life stuff happened, finishing the Zubatto record happened (and keeps happening), teaching, practicing, and every thing else that happens happened. Before I knew it, I was lucky to get a day of writing in each week.

Now things are calming down a bit again, and I am trying to get the Secret Project rolling again, but it is slow going. After months of neglect, my writing muscles are just not in shape, and need to get back up to speed. I feel a bit disconnected from the ideas I had for the project before, and combing through them and becoming reacquainted is slow going.


Slowly, though, things are starting to move again. I have a set schedule to get to the next phase of the project, and some external deadlines which will certainly help. I have cataloged and evaluated all of the material I came up with to date and set a schedule to create some mock-ups and develop it further. Most importantly, I have managed to carve some solid time in my schedule and think I can keep it carved. The inevitable Summer Student Drop-Off will also help in the time department, which is the inverse of being so successful that I can afford to spend half of the day composing, but the net result looks about the same (minus the sweet Upper West Side digs).
So I keep dreaming of Philip Glass’s studio, or my own version of it, with giant desk and well-loved piano, and a schedule that allows me several uninterrupted hours of writing each and every day. Until that happens, I’ll just have to find my moments when I can, and bring the Secret Project one step closer to being Not-So-Secret.