Notes: Tere O’Connor on Composition

Notes from a one-week composition workshop with Tere O’Connor, July 23-27, 2012.

  • Vacillate between intuition and objectivity.
  • Ask yourself: How am I defining relatedness?
  • Practice wide listening – more observation than action.
  • Consider the temporal delivery system of surface images/references/readable symbols.
  • What does “development” mean, in a non-academic way?
  • Work with range. Even if you’re only working from 0-15 (on a 0-100 scale), create your own 0-100 within 0-15.
  • Grammar eats the noun. The delivery system (temporal) makes a statement about the symbol.
  • What is the structural voice for your material?
  • Some examples of structure: sequence, blueprint, spacial/geometric, organization/disorganization, parts of a whole, frame, rules, skeleton, zoom-in/zoom-out.
  • Structure structure.
  • Potential structures can be inferred from actual structures.
  • Thing to thing. Everything that happens relates to the thing that happened before it and that happens after it.
  • What kind of hallway do you use to throw someone out in a giant field?
  • Cross-fade moments –> read what a moment gives off.
  • Merge abstractions to further the material.
  • Unravel thought: what you feel about your material is not always what the material is.
  • What kind of system is emerging?
  • There is no such thing as a transition, there is just a hierarchy of things.
  • You have to make the paint, and then you have to paint with it.
  • Create “potential futures” for your work.
  • Find betweenness.
  • There are always many structures interacting with each other. Multiple structures/braided chronologies break assumptions and re-identify what the thing is.
  • When making formal choices, ask: Why? Does it have a social resonance?
  • Can you translate social or thematic questions into formal questions?
  • How do you finish your work? Finishing is a different state than cultivating.
  • Ethics of editing: What are the politics of what gets chosen for the final version?
  • It’s unhelpful to work as if there’s a mistake that needs fixing.
  • Structure: manipulate and allow.
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