One of the primary characteristics of all music I compose, no matter the style or sound-world, is that it contains a great deal of longing. This can also be characterized as nostalgia. I feel it could be said that though this concept remains a bit of a mystery to us, all human beings know and recognize this feeling to one degree or another. I myself feel it quite strongly. I mention it frequently when asked about the pieces I compose. What could this longing or general nostalgia be?
A person that I have found to be quite eloquent on the subject is C.S. Lewis. The following is from his little book, entitled The Weight of Glory.
In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
He mentions something I believe in quite strongly, and that is that music is inherently untrustworthy at the core, or can be. The greater things we are seeking, the things we desire most, are seen through it. It is not the thing we desire, itself. I think of this quite often as I compose and it leads me down a different path than just seeking beautiful melodies or luxurious textures. There are roots unseen that go far beyond those visible things.
Much of the music I compose is in some way to me an echo of a tune I haven't heard, perhaps from a country I have not yet visited. The more I believe that as I compose, the better the music has become.