Surprised by Joy
- Come, Holy Spirit (00:00)
- Fire (10:19)
Inspiration and the Joy of Creation
My Magnum Opus... music written without any kinds of limitations in mind! I wanted to get both profound mystery and uninhibited playfulness into the same piece of music. There are a lot of wind chimes, and some Latin jazz wanted to come along for the ride...
“Where do you get your ideas from?”
Some people say that there is no such thing as inspiration. Composing is all about hard work, with a bit of luck too. Most of the time it feels like hitting your head against a brick wall. Pages and pages of sketches on manuscript paper get scribbled over, discarded, forgotten. Perhaps all composers are crazy?
But then you get this thing called Joy. The distant sound of bells, an echo of an echo… and in a moment you know that there is something there, something worth looking for. The search begins. Come, Holy Spirit.
And suddenly… Fire. The chains fall off and the music leaps up, bursting with energy. It runs around wildly. It jumps out from behind. It does all kinds of unexpected things, and the composer is powerless to stop it. Where does all of this come from? The moment passes.
Then it is the composer’s job to try and transcribe all that Joy into music. Nobody can do it perfectly, least of all me, but in this piece I’ve tried to share as best as I can how much fun composing can be.
Bob Hower conducted the first performance of this work in 2011, and I am very thankful to him for putting up with so many crazy ideas in one piece, and somehow making it work. I would also like to thank Matt Gray and Natalie Tate, to whom the two movements of this piece are dedicated, for insightful conversations about inspiration, creativity and the source of Joy.
For Joy is not the finishing line; it’s a signpost along the way.
© David John Lang 2011
Surprised by Joy was premiered by the Elder Conservatorium Wind Orchestra, conducted by Robert Hower, on the 20th August 2011 in Elder Hall, Adelaide, Australia.
The revised version was premiered by the Adelaide Wind Orchestra, conducted by David Polain, on the 1st October 2016 in Elder Hall, Adelaide, Australia.
The recording above was made by the Adelaide Wind Orchestra, conducted by David Polain. Concertante musicians: Charise Penrose (clarinet), Angelo Valdivia (trumpet), Charlie Thomas (trombone), David John Lang (melodica) and Amber Watkins (percussion). Thanks to Ray Thomas for the recording, and Matt Dorey and Angelo Valdivia for the video.
This is music is available to