This blog post was going to be about how Lil Nas X was named musician of the year by GQ and how excited I am about a mainstream mag naming a queer person of color with this title. (Thanks to The Root for turning me on to this news tidbit.)
Okay. Now I’ve done that.
I am very excited for Lil Nas X – and at the same time, it just doesn’t hold the juice for me as waking from a dream in which I was writing music.
Now that! That got me out of bed an hour earlier than my usual wake time. It took me a moment to realize I had music coming out of my fingers and that I was awake. So I jumped out of bed and crossed the hall to find my pad of manuscript paper, a pencil (freshly sharpened!), and my soft gum eraser.
I raced back to sit in my warm bed, all the while listening to the music in my head and holding on to it.
I spent the next 20 minutes scribbling out a melody on the paper. I was hearing it on tenor sax and my fingers moved over the “air sax” keys as I transcribed what I heard onto the staves.
I don’t have perfect pitch and my relative pitch sometimes isn’t as solid as I’d like. But I did my best by writing the rhythms and pitches. I finished with a 16-bar blues form that plays around both a minor blues and a major blues.
Not using a keyboard or my tenor sax is good practice for my musical ear. Just writing down these 16 bars without any external pitch reference further trains me to trust what I hear and write it down.
In my dream, I’m sitting in a classroom with a few other students. The instructor gives us the assignment to write music. He may have given us the number of measures to write or other parameters, but I don’t remember that. All I heard and saw and felt was the blues I was writing. It felt effortless and fun!
Yesterday, I had student Miles work on a composing assignment in his music method during his lesson. I’m guessing the inspiration for my dream came from teaching and working with Miles.
The melody I dream-wrote is not finished. Even as I was writing it down, I was re-writing and revising it a bit. I’ll use my keyboard to give my ear a tone center by playing major and minor blues in F concert.
Once I have the pitches in my ear, I’ll re-write some more; again, relying solely on what I hear in my head. I want to rely on my internal pitch source more and strengthen that muscle.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Ima write some ????????????.
Addendum: I wrote a second 16-bar blues in F and finally played both on my keyboard. I like them both well enough to continue working with them.