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Monday, February 8, 2010

Composer as Interior Decorator

Today's random thought is about interior spaces.

Q: What's the difference between Interior Decorators and Composers?

A: Less than you might think.

Both professionals deal with selecting, arranging, or rearranging objects into aesthetically pleasing patterns. In both trades the goal is to design the characteristics of a space where the client can experience something out of the ordinary. Interior Decorators and Composers function in a sense consultants - freelance advisers with a unique flair and talent for innovative creation and coherent design. They use their skills to select moods, colors, and thematic elements in a unified way to implicitly or explicitly communicate an experience or make a statement.

While Interior Decorators deal with actual objects and materials to express their art either in the home or office setting, Composers tend to work more abstractly and thrive in the concert hall or on recorded media. Composers make note of the their ideas either with traditional pen and paper, or using special-purpose software to design and notate their sonic patterns. Interior Decorators on the other hand compose with their eyes, and work primarily in a visual environment - although some use special purpose software as well.

In the end, the actual commercial product of both disciplines is rather similar. Wallpaper is wallpaper regardless of the speciality. The primary difference is that one profession relies on light while the other on sound waves. More fundamentally, both professions rely on a customer-base that directly or indirectly contracts for their services and professional expertise.

From my perspective, there is not a lot of difference between pushing notes around on a piece of paper, and designing the space of an elegant and inviting room. It's not the actual material of individual notes on the page or tangible objects that form the experience, but how they are organized for the client that counts. In every sense of the term, a musical composition is an "interior design" that will ultimately reside in the mind of the listener. No more, and no less.

Both trades rely heavily on recycled artifacts. Interior Decorators might reuse old lamps or side-tables. Composers re-engineer from a pallet of standardized sounds, rhythms, and pitch combinations. In both cases, the basic material is rather limited, but the possible combinations and resulting patterns of expression are nearly infinte.

Both professions often exploit and drawn upon prior cultural associations that are psychologically and socially mapped to the artifacts that they deploy in their works. Well-designed musical compositions and physical spaces are more often than not associated with one or more cultural/ethnic patterns. "Cross-over" and "Fusion" is a popular current trend in both domains of artistic expression.

There is one difference: Interior Decorators on average get paid more than Composers.

Next week: ruminations on Composer as Short Order Cook.