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Creating Poetry to Generate Melody

I hate feeling stuck.

I’ve been stuck recently on a project that has already been a year in the making. The project is a four-hands piano work that I’ve given the title, The Mirror Sonata. Like a sonata, I’m following the traditional three movement format of fast-slow-fast. The first movement, Kaleidoscope, is wrapped up and performed. I’m currently working on a concert band arrangement of Kaleidoscope and it’s turning out fantastic. Of course, I’m biased, but the arrangement is really shaping up to have a life of its own… However, I’m wary of my tendency to flit from one project to the next without finishing anything, so I know I need to get back to the actual piano sonata or it won’t happen!

That’s where I’m stuck.

Six months ago, I had jotted down some material for the second movement of the piano sonata. When I revisited it a couple days ago, I found that I didn’t care for it at all. (Isn’t that funny how your ear can change in such a short period of time as six months?)

So, with the crumpled up paper in the wastebasket (just kidding – I do most of my brainstorming on Finale), I spend a few hours fiddling around with some new ideas. I’m not having an easy time coming up with a melody. Nothing is gelling. My hunch is that I don’t have a specific enough direction for my new piece. It’s hard to create something if you don’t know what it is that you want to make.

The working title for my second movement is A Pretty Face. It’s going to be lovely, I just know it, but at the onset the title doesn’t give me much to go on. Pretty – well, that’s something very vague and ambiguous. Anything can be pretty. Do I want whimsical pretty, classic pretty, bittersweet pretty, unattainable pretty? Too many options!

That’s when I decided to go back to a foundational creative tool.


I’ve always loved words. I was poring over storybooks at 3 years old and rolling words around in my mouth like candy. Nowadays, words are running through my head for all sorts of reasons: conversations, Bible verses, future plans, old stories, music lyrics. Although I’m super busy, I always try to carve out time for reading novels… I consistently read around 5-6 novels a month. I used to write stories and poetry, but I haven’t pursued that avenue in several years: until last night when I had a sudden inspiration. Why don’t I write a piece of poetry to inspire this second movement?

I’ve always had an easy time putting words to a melody. There’s something beautiful and effortless about intertwining music and poetry. I’ve never tried arranging a text without the intent of having it sung, so it will be an interesting experiment. I can probably take more melodic risks, because instrumentalists just have less physical inhibition and more range at their fingertips.

And I think it just might be the clarity that I’m looking for.


A Pretty Face

by Kirsten Becker

I am more than just a pretty face

I am calm, I am depth, I am strength

I am the quiet in between the thunder

I am the music that flows underground

I am the mountain that casts no shadow

I am more than just a pretty face

I am poetry, I am geometry, I am culture

I am a hundred thoughts in the moonlight

I am a maze of angles and shapes and opinions

I am the whisper of a Celtic wind

I am more than just a pretty face

I am imagination, I am determination, I am hope

I am a star-flung dream in a crowded street

I am the shimmer of a suntanned brow

I am the bird that chases the sun

And again, just for fun...

I am more than just a pretty face

I am calm, I am depth, I am strength