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amreading Commonplace Book ideas music

Composers and Copywork

Copywork has long been an essential practice for writers. Notable practitioners include Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Benjamin Franklin, Hunter S. Thompson, Mary Karr

But copywork isn’t limited to writers. Composers too, have appreciated the benefits of copywork. In his memoir Words Without Music, Philip Glass shares how copying Gustav Mahler’s scores was vital to his development as a composer:

My second study of the orchestra came through a time-honored practice of the past but not much used today-copying out original scores. In my case I took the Mahler Ninth as my subject and I literally copied it out note for note on full-size orchestra paper. Mahler is famous for being a master of the details of orchestration, and though I didn’t complete the whole work, I learned a lot from the exercise. This is exactly how painters in the past and present study painting – even today, some can be seen in museums making copies of traditional paintings. It works the same way in music. This business of copying from the past is a most powerful tool for training and developing a solid orchestration technique.

Copywork, regardless of the discipline, helps you understand how a “thing” is constructed. A piece of art, music, a car engine, can all be better understood by taking each piece apart and reassembling it in the same manner of its original creator.

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Joe Kubert’s Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey


Dream state

The late Joe Kubert was one of the finest comic book artists of his generation. He was also an underrated paleo-artist.

TOR – A Prehistoric Odyssey unleashes Joe’s paleo-chops. The panels are filled to the brim with not only Dinosaurs, but Sabre-tooth tigers, giant squids, prehistoric alligators, and yeti as well.

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Making Comics – Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels


Collabo

There’s plenty of how-to guides for making comics out there. Still, I can’t think of one as comprehensive as Scott McCloud‘s Making Comics.

Though first published in 2006, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels holds up. Even chapter 7, The Comics Professional, still shares sage advice to aspiring comic writers and artists alike.

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amreading Commonplace Book writer's inspiration

Start with one page

I start with very short pieces, usually no more than a handwritten page. I try to focus on something specific: a person, a moment, a place. I do what I ask my students to do when I teach creative writing. I explain to them that such fragments are the first steps to take before constructing a story. I think a writer should observe the real world before imagining a nonexistent one.

In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri. pg 61

Many of the exercises Jhumpa describes for learning how to write in Italian can be used for improving your writing in English.

Start small. Start by filling one page.