The Portable Composer: getting work done while out of the studio

This week I have been bugling at Arlington National Cemetery. By that I mean I play “” at “Standard Honor Funerals.” When I am the bugler, I am the only one from the Navy Band at my site. I ride to the cemetery in my own car, and I spend a lot of time waiting for funerals to begin both in and out of my car. On a day like today, with four funerals, it probably translates to three minutes of actual playing and four hours of waiting. That’s a lot of brain time that can be used, even if I am not in my studio.

Today, I was thinking about a new project for trumpet solo with large ensemble accompaniment. I have been wanting to write a series of variations on the jazz standard, Night in Tunisia, for a few years, and I have finally gotten serious about it. Plus, I have just finished writing the three arias I had been working on for my upcoming recitals with Tia Wortham (starting on January 26, 2013), so I am eager for another challenge.

When I am waiting around, like on bugle days, I have come to realize that I enjoy day dreaming musical ideas, which are so crucial to the composing process. Unfortunately, I usually forget the ideas after about ten minutes, so that means that if I am doing bugles all day, even though I have thought of quite a few original musical ideas, I come home and I can not recall them. Because of this predicament, I have begun to use the “Voice Memos” app on my iPhone to capture these fleeting ideas. Sometimes I record ideas played on my trumpet, but most often I record my voice. Once I start my ideas, new ones easily come, since I am not trying to remember the last one I sang. Today, for example, I recorded eight different themes related to Night in Tunisia. That is a lot of material to work out when I get back to my studio–perhaps enough themes for the whole piece. Not bad for the portable composer.