What is work and what is leisure for a Composer?

David Smooke wrote an article on NewMusicBox.org, "Composers at Work" in response to an article Dan Visconti's post on the same blog. In Dan's article he suggests a focus on more leisure and less money to maintain balance in life. David then takes this idea and turns it toward how (or what) composers consider work.

Our language for music-making activity doesn't help the situation. When we create sounds at an instrument, we are "playing." When we work to hone our performing capabilities, we are "practicing." We are not limited by a standard workplace, instead creating out of our home or on our travels. And many of us need a monetary vocation to support our musical avocation, which further suggests that our endeavors should be properly categorized as recreational activities.

I have often been considered a work-aholic, mostly because the people around me (except perhaps my wife who shares my passion for activity) think I spend far too much time "working" and not enough time relaxing. Somehow I have failed to express that when I am "working" on a project (or two or three (or four like I am now)) this is relaxing for me; this is leisure time.

If I get a chance to spend 8 to 10 hours composing on any given day, I am more likely to want to go out and do something active (or continue composing) than on days where I spent even 6 hours in the office. When I come home from "work" (work being that thing which provides my living expenses) going out is the last thing I am interested in. I might take the time to compose (which would drastically improve my mood), or read a book or sit on the sofa watching a movie with my wife (the later two would both classify as relaxing for most people). Even though I truly enjoy relaxing with my wife, composing is (for me) just as mind clearing and potentially more relaxing as it gets my mind active.

Perhaps David puts it best when he says:

"The choice that we have made is therefore a life without leisure, but a balanced life nevertheless. We derive satisfaction from our daily activities, from our musical vocation. Instead of working in order to have a fulfilled life, our work creates a fulfilled life."

I compose because it is very satisfying. I am not making the kind of income I did when I was working in the high-tech industry, but I am much happier. I also don't "work" the 60-70 hours a week I did back then either, unless you consider the 40-50 hours a week I put in composing (plus the 20 hours a week I work and the 20-30 hours a week I attend Graduate school --when in session). Yes, I probably put in 90+ hours a week doing what most people consider work. But I only sleep 6-7 hours a night, so that still gives me 3-4 hours of leisure time. I don't see a problem with this schedule. Would that other people could find something to fill their time they love so much...


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