I used to play electric guitar in a band. It was the "democratic" type: everyone brings ideas, everyone's opinion carries equal weight. There are plenty of reasons I don't play in a band like that anymore. Short version: it's really hard, and if the elements are anything less than perfectly, almost supernaturally aligned, it simply doesn't work over the long haul.
But there are things about playing in a band that I miss—at times, desperately so. Chief among them is the experience of bringing in a simple idea—a few chords, a section, a rough outline of a tune—and watching the band go to work on it. Little creative inputs firing from all corners, chemically reacting over sometimes long periods of time, and as if from a chrysalis vibrating with its secret magic, that humble idea emerging as a fully-fledged song, transformed in glory.
Am I romanticizing the process a little? Maybe a little. All I know is, every time I would think, "I could never have done that on my own." Think of that song as a Big Mac. Maybe I made the the all-beef patty. Maybe even two. But the band added the special sauce. They made it delicious, man.
Fast forward many years, and I'm at work on a choral setting of a Robert Frost poem entitled, appropriately enough, "Into My Own." (Total coincidence, I swear.) The first of five movements for women's chorus and harp. I made a sketch of the piece first—a melody and a basic accompaniment. Then I sat down to flesh out the piece, and instantly suffered a minor meltdown. I couldn't hear past my melody to a three-part chorus; the harp part, which I'd thought might be about 90% finished, suddenly felt grossly inadequate.
"Maybe this is a song," I thought, "not a choral piece. Maybe it needs a band. Some kick-ass musicians who can attack this material, bring their own thing to it, make it awesome."
I wanted the special sauce.
A new band for my new vocal material? Not such a bad idea, actually. I might do that someday. But not now. Not yet. Meltdown subsided, I could see with confidence that this is a choral piece. It's just not finished yet. I've got the all-beef patty. Maybe even two. But you know what's missing. And I'll bet you know who's going to supply it.
You guessed it. It's me. I'm the special sauce, man. Mike + Time. Time to make my own chemical reactions, my own spontaneous moments of magic, transforming this thing from a good idea to a real piece of music. I'm the band. Call it Michael T and Special Sauce. And the band is getting down to business. You may not see it at the top of the score. But if this piece of music comes out the way I hope it will, you better believe the band gets all the credit.