I grew up believing the myth that artistic vision is realized through occasional bursts of inspiration. This is probably why I have piles of digital song “fragments” from my high school and university years but very few compositions I would consider complete. One of the most challenging yet important ingredients for my integrative project has been scheduled creative time.
I still remember going to a songwriting workshop years ago and hearing Brian Doerksen mention that he schedules time to write music. I don’t know whether or not this is still his practice, but I remember thinking it was a bit odd since, up to that time, I only wrote music when I felt “inspired” (I’m still not sure what I meant by the term). But what do you do as a fledgling artist when you don’t feel inspired, or, as is now the case with my IPIAT, when you’re writing on a deadline? You do what any effective person does – you schedule the task into your day. So now, if my schedule says “write music,” I write music. And during those days when fatigue gets the better of me or the creative juices aren’t flowing clear and steady, I settle for writing something that sounds like music’s ugly third cousin. Setting a schedule combats the silly notion that music is just a byproduct of unexpected bursts of inspiration. In my experience so far, it’s usually a more disciplined and drawn out process than that. Is it worthwhile labour? Absolutely, both for my own growth and learning, and hopefully, for the edification of the Body too.
Since I’m writing songs surrounding the Easter narrative, I thought it made sense to go back to the Gospel accounts. I was immediately drawn to the Gospel of John. There’s something about the emotional immediacy of John’s writing that captivates my imagination. The emotional nuances and subtle shifts in each character are at once accessible and expansive. What I love most about John is how he writes narrative and theology together. After sitting with the Gospel of John for a few days I thought, “that’s exactly what I want to do!”
I have selected several passages from the story, beginning with the Last Supper in John 13:16-30 and ending with the resurrected Jesus eating breakfast with several of His disciples in John 21:1-13. So far I have sketched the rough outline of two songs.
Photo courtesy of Robert Walker