The Year of Musical Thinking, A Minute At A Time Today, composer David Morneau finishes off an ambitious yearlong project: Throughout the past 365 days, he has written 60 seconds' worth of music daily. He speaks with Robert Siegel about being a musical "one-minute man."
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The Year of Musical Thinking, A Minute At A Time

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The Year of Musical Thinking, A Minute At A Time

The Year of Musical Thinking, A Minute At A Time

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We begin this next item with a big finish.


SIEGEL: This musical mix is called, "At Last, It's All Endings" and fittingly so, it marks the end of David Morneau's year-long project and it's on his Web site today. Morneau, a doctoral candidate in composition, has been composing one 60-second piece every day for year.

DAVID MORNEAU: I kind of hit a creative block with a couple of other project I was working on at the time. So I was looking for a way to try some new things and also just for a way to sort of develop a little more discipline in my composing life.

SIEGEL: And you felt that the discipline of having a daily deadline to come up with 60 seconds of fresh music every day would help you break through the creative block you're experiencing?

MORNEAU: Yeah, yeah. Because people work differently under a deadline, and having a deadline every day would never give me a chance to really procrastinate and sort of fall into the old habits that I had developed.

SIEGEL: But did you risk trading in one big block for 365 little blocks?

MORNEAU: I did risk that, and there were lots of days where I experience little blocks. And working on this project was sitting down and finding a way to get past that block quickly.

SIEGEL: Here's a - I want to play a bit of the piece of this piece called "String Cheese."



SIEGEL: Now, here's a reality of modern radio, you write a 60-second piece and we still fade it under because we don't play - you know, the whole thing right now...

MORNEAU: But that part.


SIEGEL: ...the entire composition, yeah, but that's - first of all, are we hearing strings or are we hearing synthesized music here?

MORNEAU: You're hearing is sampled strings. Those are part of Apple computer's GarageBand software. You know, so I took those and then the drum stuff underneath is kind of a famous sample in the hip-hop world called the Amen break.

SIEGEL: Well, of course, this all raises the question of what the rules are, what the rules do you set for yourself, about a 60-second composition. Obviously, you're sampling and you're using all kinds of sounds from various sources. Must each 60-second composition have a beginning, a middle, and an end?

MORNEAU: Not really. I mean, some of them are just about making one sound last for a full minute and seeing what that feels like and what that sounds like. And then some of the other ones are really more about finding a way to build a miniature structure within the one minute.

SIEGEL: On the other hand, one that simply takes a single idea and develops it a bit is "Mellow," that's one of your compositions.

MORNEAU: "Mellow" is one of the pieces - you know, I developed one idea and it's also one of those pieces that was about finding my way past the mental block.


SIEGEL: We got a little bit unblocked there from the "Mellow."

MORNEAU: Yes. Yeah.

SIEGEL: Here's one you wrote, it's called "Glassbreak."


SIEGEL: I think more than one listener right now is remarking, in some way, to him or herself or to the other person next them, this is music?

MORNEAU: Yeah. And I'm happy if people want to think of some things like that as sound art. I used to be more concerned about that question.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

MORNEAU: But now, you know, I like to work with all kinds of sounds in, sort of, all different ways. And I, of course, think of it all as music, but I know that that's kind of a hurdle for some people in calling it sound art or, you know, some other term is fine.


SIEGEL: In the course of this year...


SIEGEL: Did you ever find yourself in such a good, creative mood that you could get a jump on a week and do six of them in one day and be set and then take a couple of days off?

MORNEAU: The most I've ever done in a day was three pieces. And, yeah, I was very excited about getting a jump and then thinking that I would be able to stay ahead. But, you know, three days later, I was back to not having anything prepared.


SIEGEL: This may say something about creative blocks and to meet deadlines.

MORNEAU: Yeah. Yeah.

SIEGEL: Yeah, yeah. You just can't get that far ahead of yourself out here.

MORNEAU: No. No. That was very hard. And it's hard - a lot of days, it was hard to find the time to just compose one with everything else that goes on in a day-to-day life, so finding the time to do two or three was very, very difficult.

SIEGEL: Well, David Morneau, thank you very much for talking with us about it.

MORNEAU: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's David Morneau who has written a 60-second piece of music every day for the past year. And you can find a link to all of his compositions at



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