This description of writing from the Nobel lecture of the great Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk has been on my mind lately, and I wonder how it applies to making music:
A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy. As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone. The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.
As musicians, what are our stones? Are they the notes on the page, or the other players we perform with? We also turn inward, shutting ourselves up in practice rooms to discover our second selves, but music making is not a solitary experience. Maybe bringing musicians into a room together is like introducing those newly-discovered selves to each other. Then they go off and write their own novel, if we let them.
If you’re a composer or performer, what do you think of the musician’s paradox of needing both solitude and community?