Sharon Lynn Makarenko
Composer and pianist...on a little island off the west coast of Canada
“All our doors and windows were wide open.” - Madeleine L’Engle
“You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures.” - Tchekov
I find inspiration in gates, and the opening of gates. I remember vividly the first time I opened the big iron gates when we moved to our current home. It felt like something more. I recently heard this analogy given by the great Ohad Naharin to a group of dancers….to think of themselves as a house with all the doors and windows open, and to feel the wind blowing through their house. I think this is probably the best description I’ve heard to describe the courage and vulnerability of the artist. It is so easy to shut my own creativity down through self-criticism and judgement. I often remind myself that it is not my job to be successful but to just serve the art, to consistently create, to bring something of value in the best way I know how, to share a piece of myself. And I don’t think I am always the best judge of my own work, anyhow, because I am emotionally invested in my work. So I aim to create with my gates open wide.
“I slipped into silence as though into the cool waters of the sea.” - Madeleine L’Engle
Stillness is productive, too. Whether alone with the sound of the ocean, or the sight of the stars…I have a deep need for quiet, to be alone, to be at peace in silence. I have long loved the word ousia, the essence or substance of who I really am and who I am meant to be. I am my most ontological self here, not what anyone thinks I am or who they think I should be but who I am. Without this time away, even if just for a few minutes each day, I lose that wind blowing through my house. I have come to realize that it is a form of self-care and although it might seem counter-intuitive, this stillness is productive, too.
I have found that there’s no mood that a little Bach can’t fix. My favourite would have to be Glenn Gould’s recordings of the Preludes and Fugues. The 48 Preludes and Fugues are like dear old friends and have seen me through all sorts of things. And there is nothing like losing yourself in one of the Fugues at the piano to clear the mind, although I will probably never sound like Glenn Gould….and that’s ok.
4. The Ocean
I live on a small island. The ocean affects every part of life here and I find inspiration in it daily - the rhythm of the tide, the sound of the waves, the colour of the water, the sky, the sound of the sea birds. It is never the same, always changing, never static. It is a living breathing thing like music, and it always inspires me with its movement, its fluidity, a music all its own. Sometimes all I need is a little time by the sea.
I am fascinated with the human experience…of the passing of time, of distance, and the space between, how we relate to these things, and through these, to each other. The human experience of love and loss. The beauty found in the smallest moments. What is the nature of life? Of time? What is human creativity? And what is our share in all of this? I often imagine what it would look like if we could somehow step back and see a life from beginning to end, the sum of a life. This is a huge part of my inspiration and writing, and many of the Greek words I have used in titles reference these ideas. I love Greek partly because I often struggle to find a way to put these things into words in English. So I attempt, in some small way, to say them through music and hope there is a Greek word that captures the essence of what I am trying to say.
“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. - Henry Wordsworth Longfellow
I have had this quote on the wall in my studio for years. I love reading, and reading poetry in particular. I find inspiration in the work of writers who have the ability to evoke emotion with the fewest words. This is how I feel about writing music. Sometimes the fewest notes say the most, have the most power to move me to the depths of my being. Simplicity is often the most difficult thing to achieve. It takes great skill, and it takes courage to believe it is enough, to resist adding notes that do not need to be there. I often ask myself if a melody can stand on its own. And if it makes my husband cry, that’s usually a good sign, too.
“The poet wrote the poem, no doubt. But he forgot himself while he wrote it, and we forget him while we read…we forget, for ten minutes, his name and our own, and I contend that this temporary forgetfulness, this momentary and mutual anonymity, is sure evidence of good stuff.” - E.M.Forster
I love where I live. The island, in itself, is an inspiration. I love taking long walks, feeling the wind, the trees, the sky, the ocean. It is all very inspiring and exquisitely beautiful. Sometimes it feels like another world. Many artists live here, and one can see why. Just taking the time to leave the studio and go for a long walk can completely shift my focus and outlook.
“3am is the hour of writers, painters, poets, musicians, silence seekers, over thinkers, and creative people. We know who you are. We can see your light on.” - Charles Bukowski
The stars, the moon on the water, the quiet. The night hours are my most creative by far. Almost every piece I’ve ever written has been written in the quiet of night, partly because it is when the house is still and everyone is sleeping. But night hours are the magic hours for me, and if I had my way I would always work by the light of the moon.
9. The Piano
This one may feel obvious, but the piano feels like home to me. I play other instruments, too, and sometimes writing on a different instrument helps me to approach music in a fresh way. But in the end, I always come back to my beautiful piano. I can say things there that I cannot say anywhere else. And I think no matter where I am, once I am at the piano, I am home.