Sunday, October 12, 2008

Words of Wisdom for the Children's Book Writer from-- Aaron Copland?

Okay, so maybe Aaron Copland isn't the first name that comes to mind when you think of great masters from the past imparting knowledge on the current generation of children's book writers. But he has to be at least fourth or fifth, right?

I've been hopping around in Aaron Copland's enlightening book, What to Listen for in Music, and I'd like to draw some parallels between musical composition and kidlit composition.

Here's an important note about finding your own voice, even when the voices of the masters hold you under their spell:

"My love of the music of Chopin and Mozart is as strong as that of the next fellow, but it does me little good when I sit down to write my own, because their world is not mine and their musical language [is] not mine."

On the question of whether one needs to be inspired in order to write:

"The composer, therefore, confronted with the question of inspiration, does not say to himself: 'Do I feel inspired?' He says to himself: 'Do I feel like composing today?' And if he feels like composing, he does."

On the concept of innovative writing:

"...musical speech-- if it is truly vital-- is certain to include an experimental and controversial side. And why not? Why is it that the typical music lover of our day is seemingly so reluctant to consider a musical composition as, possibly, a challenging experience?"

And finally, just for fun, this thought (yes, Musicland has its version of James Joyce):

"The dodecaphonic school of Schoenberg is the hardest nut to crack, even for musicians."

So there you have it, from a kindred kidlit spirit, the words of Aaron Copland. He's really not so far from us if you think about it. He did write that wonderfully rhythmic ballet, Billy the Kid; and that was all about a kid, right?

6 comments:

sruble said...

Great post. I think there's a lot of similarity between music and writing, from classical to contemporary.

Actually, I think most creative works have some connection to the creative process in writing.

It's always good to find another one of those connections, thanks!
Stephanie

Candace Ryan said...

Yes, Stephanie. I also think music and writing are closely connected because they both must unfold note by note, or word by word, in the medium of time; whereas a painting can be more easily seen "all at once."

sruble said...

Hmmm, as an artist, I think I'll have to disagree with you there.

A painting changes and morphs as you create it, just like a novel or PB or musical composition.

And although a viewer can take the image in all at once, if they come back to it again and again, they are likely to see something new, an facial expression, a shadow, a hidded figure, or something in the background that claims attention.

So I'd say that a painting unfolds brushstroke by brushstroke, a drawing pencilstroke by pencilstroke, and a digital image pixel by pixel.

At least that's the way I see it as an artist :0)

Candace Ryan said...

I think you hit on what I was trying to differentiate-- that a "viewer can take an image in all at once," whereas a reader or listener can't take in their respective artforms "all at once." All the words in a book can't be read simultaneously.

You're right, this doesn't mean that the viewer won't miss details in the painting, looking at it for only a moment's time; but she still takes most of it in.

On the other hand, for the artist in the act of creation, as you so aptly point out, the piece unfolds brushstroke by brushstroke.

And those brushstrokes remain "forever," unlike a played musical note or a read word. I find these processes to be very fascinating.

Thanks for the discussion, Stephanie:)

Carrie Harris said...

Interesting parallels! Although for me, it's a mistake to wait for inspiration to write, since I could go for weeks without feeling inspired. I often find myself sitting reluctantly at the keyboard and then finally looking up at the clock two hours later wondering where the time went.

I love the musical speech quote, too. There's a certain rhythm to written dialogue; when it's done well, it's fabulous. And then there are the times when it isn't...

Candace Ryan said...

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for adding to the discussion!