|Lennie Moore's Blog|
I like to wax on all things Philosophical from time to time. Here\'s where you\'ll find some hopefully insightful things on life and music or banal pap. You decide.
The following is a keynote I gave at a graduation ceremony for students at Pyramind at the end of last year. I thought it would be a good thing to share...
Today, I’d like to talk briefly about the future.
We all dream of futures filed with creativity, success, wealth, love, joy –
Many possibilities all revolving around what we desire in our hearts and what we’re passionate about.
The problem with the future is:
There is no certainty.
No guarantees that everything we desire will be there when we arrive.
What can we do about this?
What actions can we take to achieve our dreams?
In my observations, people live in one of three ways:
Those that live in the future say things like,
“Once I land that big job, everything will be OK.”
“Once I achieve X, then I’ll be happy.”
It took a year from the time I submitted a demo for Dirty Harry until I got hired. Waiting and wanting the job so badly drove me nuts! I was so desiring of this future (at the time) but couldn’t do anything about it – until it happened in its own time.
Those living in the past say,
“If only X would have happened, then everything would have been OK.”
“If I would have done X, then Y would have happened.”
If only I practiced piano more then sequencing would not equal pain!
Sadly, most people live in these two places.
But here’s a secret:
The past and the future aren’t real.
The past isn’t real because it’s already happened.
It was real when it happened
But it’s not real now.
The future isn’t real because it hasn’t happened yet.
It won’t become real until it happens.
Plus, which future will it be?
I believe everything occurs in a succession of moments.
Once they occur, they become part of the past.
Those moments that haven’t occurred yet are part of the future.
None of these events are ones we can control.
So, what can you control?
The choices and actions you make live in the present.
They live here in the moment.
When I’m composing and “in the zone,” I’m in the moment.
Relaxed, focused, present and open to let the composition evolve
into something cool and amazing.
Now is the most powerful spot to be in.
Now is where everything exists and it is the only place
Where you have complete control.
Once you choose,
Once you act,
This event moves into the past.
And there exists a new moment for you to make
Addition choices and actions.
Now is where everything exists.
It is a powerful spot.
It’s where I feel the most excitement.
The most joy.
What does “being in the moment” mean?
The last day of recording on Star Wars: The Old Republic was a magical day.
We were behind schedule, and our whole team collectively chose to “go guerilla.”
This meant we needed to use guerilla warfare tactics, which was a phrase I (and many of my colleagues) used back in the early days of my career when we had no budget and not enough recording time. This method of recording involved setting limits as to how much time would be spent on recording each cue. Three takes or 15 minutes for an action cue, two takes or 10 minutes for an ambient cue. Record the best performance possible with the restraints and move on.
On this magical day, the synergy of everyone – composers, recording crew, conductor and the musicians performed at the highest level of working together that I’ve ever experienced.
It was amazing! The performances were stellar. The teamwork was unparalleled. The efficiency of the day was perfect. It was a perfect succession of moments.
I’m not sure if experiencing a synergy like this might ever happen again. Let’s hope so.
So here we are. Here. Now.
Choosing to be what we are in this moment.
Hopefully, I’m being inspiring on this day where you all celebrate
The completion of your programs.
Whether I’m actually this or not depends on you and me.
By what we choose
And what we act upon.
So after celebrating this graduation from the program,
What are you going to do?
What choices and actions will you make?
I can’t wait to find out!
Some advice as you go out and conquer the universe:
Staying at home waiting for the phone call vs. putting yourself out there
Not what I’d consider productive or efficient.
It’s our nature (because the work we do is generally solitary)
to stay in our little caves.
But the people who hire you aren’t in your cave, so get out there!
That’s where they are. Go get ‘em!
I go to GDC every year. Also community events, dinner with friends,
Send emails, make phone calls, update my website, facebook, etc.
My first video game job came from a posting on a film music soundtrack newsgroup.
It came from Belgium.
That game was Outcast.
When I finally got the green light for Dirty Harry:
I analyzed all the movie scores
Kicked ass on composing and working with the audio director
Smiled (a lot!) on the scoring stage (acknowledged the moment)
Expressed my appreciation to everyone on the crew and in the orchestra (and got a better performance because of this)
Repeat after me: I’m unique!
I believe in an abundant universe over one filled with scarcity.
That abundant universe has room for everyone to have their little spot where they can fulfill their dreams.
Yeah, it’s on every shampoo bottle but it works!
Congratulations everyone! (That’s an acknowledgement)
Enjoy the moment.
Finally, I got permission to post music examples from the Watchmen Motion Comic on My Space! I've included them in my Audio Files here on the G.A.N.G. site.
Sometimes you just have to be patient...
Those of us that regularly work on large projects know they can be stressful and have learned over the years to manage that stress effectively in order to do the best work possible for our clients.
But what happens after the project is completed?
In my experience I've noticed that my immune system is functioning in high-performance mode, keeping me illness free until the very day after I've delivered my masters and then WHAM! I get a cold. I suspect that due to the level of adrenaline coursing through my veins and my sheer willpower to not have anything prevent me from completing my mission, I end up with an immune system crash once the gig's done and I get my first full night's sleep.
Have you experienced this yourself?
I believe I've found a solution that works quite well for me: I keep myself sleep-deprived for one week following the completion of a big project. I'll explain this in more detail...
Starting on the day after delivering my final masters, I'll sleep only five hours instead of my normal eight and continue to get up early for about a week, adding an hour of sleep each day until I'm back to normal at the end of the week. So Monday/Tuesday might be 5 hours, Wednesday/Thursday 6, Friday/Saturday 7 and Sunday I'm back to 8. I also keep my days very active and busy catching up on my correspondence, errands, and other business stuff for about 3-4 days. As it gets towards the end of the week I'll do more fun things like gaming and relaxing so by the time I get to the end of the week, my immune system has had a chance to re-acclimate. For whatever reason, this method has worked perfectly for the last 3-5 years and I haven't had a recurrence of the "getting sick after the gig" thing.
Granted, I also eat lots of organic, pesticide-free, locally grown fruits and vegetables as part of my regular diet whether I'm working or not. I go on walks with my fiancé. I go to sleep around the same time each night. I also take immune boosting supplements like Black Elderberry if I feel the onset of anything during these intense work periods. I believe these measures add to my ability to remain healthy but I also think that I listen carefully to my body and respond when it tells me I need something.
How do you manage your stress? I'm curious to know how others deal with this issue so feel free to post your thoughts and observations.
Due to the nature of what we do for a living, all of us have a certain level of stress to manage as we get through our day. It's not life and death stress like firemen, police officers, or surgeons deal with, but it's still stress and it is real. How we manage it has everything to do with how effective we are in our work.
I just finished a recording session last week with the following parameters: very tight deadline, enormous complexity in the music, limited budget, and tremendous responsibilities that I was contractually bound to. I survived (otherwise I wouldn't be able to write this!), my client was totally happy with the product. I pushed the musicians way beyond what I thought I could do with them. Everything was delivered on time and on budget.
Oh! And I was totally stressed out non-stop for two weeks leading up to the session - to the point that I was feeling the "stress-buzz" in my chest everytime I had a spare moment to stop and think about it. Granted, I managed to get everything completed professionally, do great work, and not need a coronary by-pass. But I have been thinking about it a lot lately and ask my self the following question...
What are we stressing over?Shit happens. There's a reason this saying carries some weight. If you place events on a cosmic scale you realize the universe does not care how busy your day is. You're just a piece of matter on one planet near one star in one system in one galaxy in a universe full of galaxies. If you've read Marcus Aurelius (Roman Caesar/Philosopher), he says quite a bit on this subject and the role of the individual within this universe. For me I find there's power in his thinking. It is a freeing notion that if the universe does not care about me it equally does not care about anyone else and that puts all of us on an equal level. No one is more significant than the other guy/gal, although for purposes of ego we all like to think we are!
Enough philosophy. Back to the point. Events happen that disrupt the order of our personal universe. How does the same event devastate one person, while another overcomes and conquers it no matter how seemingly impossible it might be? What makes the difference?
Here's some food for thought from a book called Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:
Certain events cause more psychological strain than others. The same stressful event might make one person utterly miserable, while another will bite the bullet and make the best of it. This difference in how a person responds is called "coping ability" or "coping style".There are two ways people generally respond to stress - one positive and the other negative. Withdrawing into yourself, sleeping late, denying what is happening, turning on your loved ones, drinking more than usual are several examples of negative responses. Positive responses can include temporary suppression of anger and fear, analyzing the problem logically, and reassessing your priorities.
Few of us rely on one strategy exclusively. How many of us get drunk the first night, have a fight with our wives, then the next day or week later, we simmer down and start figuring out what to do next?
My hand is raised. How about you?
Three resources are available to us when coping with stressful events: external support (family, friends, colleagues), a person's psychological resources (intelligence, education, relavent personality factors), and finally the coping strategies that a person uses to confront the stress. This last one is most relevant in most cases.
Here are my methods for coping with highly stressful situations:
1. Don't forget to breath! No seriously, it's true. A little oxygen to the brain, a walk around the block, or a couple of sit-ups can do wonders.
2. Staying calm. See #1. You're the expert your clients hired. You know what you're doing. You've probably been here before in some fashion. Suppress your anger and fear response and start to think logically about what needs to get done.
3. Assess the situation. Make a list of what needs to get done and calculate how long you estimate it will take to complete these tasks. Do you need help? Who are your go-to guys that you call when you need backup?
4. Prioritize. Define what's most important to complete based on your delivery schedule and what your client needs. Factor in what you need too. Sometimes I'll do several easy cues in a row to feel like I'm psychologically getting more done and being ultra-efficient.
5. Take action. Start in on the highest priority first. Take regular breaks and assess your well being along the way. If you have to work for long stretches like two or more weeks straight under duress, you have to maintain your stamina, get enough sleep every night, and spend some time with your loved ones.More from Flow:
Everyone has to confront events that contradict our goals. Each event is negative feedback that produces disorder in the mind, threatening the self and impairing its functioning.
Courage, resilience, perserverance and mature coping are essential.
If you're interested in reading more about what I've discussed above and the Flow experience, checkout the book, Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick-sent-me-hi).
In the midst of any large project where you have many minutes of music to compose, there is always that one cue that kicks your ass. You know the one.
I can't say how many times this has happened to me in over twenty years of composing, mostly because I forget (probably due to the beauty of selective memory- where you block out traumatic events such as abuse, emotional upset, and where you left the car keys). What I do recall is I've always found a solution to whatever cues have given me grief over the years. Here are a few examples:
Starting with the most recent, I'm just finished a big cue for a funeral scene and I wanted to do a requiem. That means counterpoint! This cue took me four days to get right when I needed to do it in two. This may not seem like a big deal at all but when you have to maintain a certain number of minutes per day to meet your schedule, you can't be taking extra time to do what one of my old teachers from Berklee called, "musical masturbation."
Here's the rub. I know, even if I spend more time doing one important cue, I'll make up the needed time and get everything done. How? Because of the "secret law of the logarithmic curve of schedules" which states that ALL gigs have a certain pace to them which starts out slow and ramps up to a frenzy at the very end. It is, as Mr. Smith from the Matrix would say, "inevitable."
Being a creative professional is knowing that some things take longer to gestate than others. I did this film once which had a scene that was edited twice as long as it should have been. How do I know this? Because in the work print I was using to score to, I could see the actor staring into space, followed by someone feeding him a line off-camera, then I'd see his performance, followed by a cut to the other actor staring into space waiting for his line, hearing that off-camera, followed by his performance and so on for three frikkin' minutes! The director's exact words were, "Can you help us out here?" And so I did.
I had 4 weeks to score 80 minutes of orchestral music on this project and after 3 weeks I hadn't found a solution to this scene. I watched and re-watched this scene at least 10 times every day and when I couldn't think of anything, I'd move on to scoring another cue or two from other scenes. In the last week I found my solution. Forget the bad editing; this scene was about the death of the Mayor's daughter! Once I knew that I wrote an adagio of the Mayor's daughter theme and slapped it up against picture and viola! I'm a genius! Or at least that's what the director said.
All projects, large and small, have a unique dynamic to them in the pacing of the schedule. They each have their own challenges which, as a professional composer, one needs to meet with a calm mind and plenty of pencils, erasers, and sketch pads. Remind yourself that you KNOW what you're doing. You ARE the music authority on this project. Then step up and hit it out of the park.
In the end, you have to trust in yourself, your craft, and your experience to know that that bastard cue will get done and it will be great!
Everyone's working hard to get this site up and running which is totally appreciated. Here are some of the bugs I've encountered in case you've visited my page and seen things that don't make sense.
On the mp3 player my descriptions for each cue are not in sync and don't match with the track titles so if you see anything in the description that doesn't make sense with what you're listening to, ignore it.
Here's a big one: If you've sent me any kind of message in your response to my connection requests, all I get back is a blank message so I have no idea if you've made comments, asked questions, or just said hello. I've also sent everyone of you a message with my connection requests ranging from, "Yo!" to "Send me your contact info" so if you haven't seen these messages on my connection requests to you, let Stephen Years know about it at email@example.com
In the meantime, as I don't know if I've missed any important messages from you, for now just send me a duplicate normal email to firstname.lastname@example.org when you message me in this system until we get this sorted out. I don't want anyone getting mad at me for not responding to their message.
Back to composing...