My sister loves to cook. She studies cookbooks. She dreams up new recipes. She can look at a recipe and imagine the taste of how the different ingredients will work together. She takes inspiration from what's "in season," magazines, holiday traditions, television shows, family favorites, and many other sources. She thinks about shopping and planning well in advance of the the actual meals. And those who are the beneficiaries of her efforts are well rewarded.
Composers are similar to cooks but use a different medium. They study scores and the ideas of other composers. They have the ability to look at music and hear in their minds how the different elements will sound as they work together. They look for inspiration everywhere - nature, people, ideas, feelings, art, and spirituality. When writing music they plan and work things out in their minds well in advance of ever writing it down. And hopefully, those who perform or hear their music will feel well rewarded, as well.
I admire my sister for her interest in cooking. That is definitely not my talent. I have very simple tastes and only cook because we have to eat. I have learned enough recipes to keep my family coming back to the table without complaint. They even generously say they have their favorite comfort foods from among the recipes I know. But I really do not plan ahead much or even think about cooking until there is a need to feed my family.
But I do think about music all the time. I always have tunes going around in my head. Songs keep me awake through the night. It is almost a burden to try to sleep because my brain, free of the daytime distractions, decides that's the best time to work. If I am writing a show, the characters rattle around in my head until I figure out ways to bring them to musical life. And if I happen to get a burst of inspiration, I have learned to act quickly to write it down because I know how quickly it can vanish.
Once I was asked to write a theme song for Girl's Camp based on a talk by Elder Carl B. Cook. The theme was "It's Better to Look Up," meaning to focus on the Savior and you will be happy. This was to be a rush job because they needed the song right away. Well, I agreed to give it my best shot, read the talk, and went to bed. By about midnight I realized that I had a specific tune forming in my mind. It wasn't letting me sleep very well, but I tried to sleep on anyway. A little later, I was conscious enough to realize that words were there, too. So, figuring the inspiration was just not going to leave me alone, I got up and wrote it all down. Those ladies in charge must have been praying that this song could come about quickly because a new song was born that night and emailed to the parties soon after. I can hardly take credit for writing that song. It was more like taking dictation. The comments from the lady in charge were telling. She got the music and said that it was just how she had imagined it should be. I think she had gotten the same inspiration that I had.
So, if you want to sample some of my home cookin' -- a song based on words by a man named Cook anyway -- check out "Look Up, Step Up, and Cheer Up" written for 2-part treble chorus and guitar (piano accompaniment given to approximate easy strumming guitar).