Woke up at 4 am with a series of phrases looping through my mind. Not just repeating, but looping, the last note of the final phrase leading directly into the first note of the first. Over and over, spooling through half-crazed, dream-inflected imagery as I bumbled back into and out of sleep over the next three hours.
When it was finally time to surrender to the light of morning, I pulled myself out of bed and went through the curtain-raising rituals that open each day: ablutions, breakfast, herding the kids off to school. Through it all, said loop spun continuously, despite my best efforts to banish it, replace it with other thoughts.
A bit of coffee zapped my brain and clarified what I was hearing. It was a passage from an extensive piece I’ve been working on. I realized, with horror, that the word “street” occurred twice in the course of the looping passage, a correspondence I hadn’t noticed, though I work very carefully to marshal the effects of those kinds of repetitions when they occur. In other words, the text of this piece is full of deliberate repetitions, so I was blasted to discover one I hadn’t noticed before. Here is the line of text, intentionally puerile, because I was trying to capture an adolescent mind’s first attempts at poetic expression:
Through dusty streets and brambled pathways,
Through snowflake days and streetlamp nights,
As I said, the music for those lines was looping relentlessly through my mind for four hours. It was as if the piece was doing its damnedest to make me notice the problem and fix it. Which I did, of course, feverishly making excuses for the oversight – the piece has well over 2000 words of text, these two lines came into this particular confluence late in the game, the repetition is a bit veiled by the compound word “streetlamp.”
After it was fixed, the loop faded away.
Yet another example of some of the craziness one endures in the process of composition.