Neither of my parents are musicians. My mother, however, is a floral designer studied in the German style. It was through her work, perhaps, that I had one of my first encounters with the arts.
Meanwhile, lately, I have become quite fascinated with bonsai.
How about bonsai?
Let’s see the process of bonsai making.
First, you cut a tree and put it in a pot. Second, you trim the branches. Next, you bind the branches with wires, to form the shape. Then, you change the pot to a fitting tray. Finally, you moss the soil, and put the tree on a table for display.
In floral design, each plant is treated anonymously as one unit of many, to be composed into a piece of art. But in bonsai, the plant itself becomes a piece of art, where the plant is identifiable as a unique whole and never substitutable.
Now, it could be argued that “ordinary” music composition is similar to floral design, in that the sounds are considered as units, namely notes, to be composed into a piece of music. And each sound is likewise anonymous in itself.
The English composer Trevor Wishart tells us that, for sound-oriented composition, composers must first learn that “sounds are not notes.”
This, however, could be often overlooked by composers, especially when composers and performers are separated.
Wishart then proposes to change the metaphor for composition from architecture to alchemy.
But here the sound still remains a material.