A while ago I blogged about composing a piece of music because a lot of people seem to think it's a much more mysterious proposition than it really is. The tag for that series of posts is Vermont Song. One of the points made in those posts is that first you set your parameters - things like instruments, pitch set (scale), and meter - and then it's sort of like a game wherein you work to see what you can do musically within those parameters.
So I was delighted to see Kyle Gann say in a recent post:
“if you get an interesting enough scale, you can just explore all the inherent possibilities of that scale, both the ones you built into it and the ones that appear unexpectedly, and the piece practically writes itself.”
I quoted that in a comment and added: "That’s a wonderful way to think about composing – that you’re simply releasing inherent possibilities of a set of parameters – takes the conscious ego right out of the equation."
Kyle was talking specifically about one of his micro-tonal scales (this one has 36 different pitches per octave), but the concept can work for a bundle of parameters, not just one.
The phrase "conscious ego" might be one I start using regularly because it's a handy way of talking about what the lamas call "the self-cherishing ego", as opposed to the "neutral ego". In the case of composition, once you set the parameters, who you are will determine what you find in that space, there's no need to be constantly wondering what it is you want to say.
As I've mentioned before, the first time I hear a piece performed, or the first time I perform it for someone else, there's this amazing feeling of being in a waking dream state that I think is due to hearing how some part of me I'm not conscious of is being expressed.