So I found that collaborator after all.
The above drawing was done while listening to Arvo Pärt's 'Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten' on a repeat loop. It's a sketch, merely; it only barely suggests the sense I have of an infinite number of cascading stars, drifting gracefully and impersonally into a humming abyss.
Cantus: a personal threnody; an ultimate closing chord; a mystical, threshold experience.The piece is only five minutes long; I probably played it about twenty times in the course of making the sketch. I found that I couldn't turn the music off and polish the drawing. Without the music I didn't know what to focus on, or where to go next. The sounds were directly informing the movement and the weight of the lines.
To get it really right will require color, of course, and probably quite a large canvas.
The tentative plan, for now, is to make a lot more sketches from the same piece, and a lot more sketches from other pieces. Then pick some of them and make paintings. But this plan is subject to change at any moment.
The thing that feels like a breakthrough to me is not that I finally made a new drawing after months of not picking up a pencil; that's just detritus. What is almost impossible to articulate (but I will try) is that while working this way, I seem to be able to access an infinite inner space, as though the membrane between me and the universe had melted away and revealed the whole of Reality within my heart.
Which would be the definition, more or less, of 'mystical experience.' As hokey as that sounds.
Perhaps the reason this appears to me to be a breakthrough, why I feel that it is the right way to work right now, is that taking away any literal representation, any 'signifier', and doing a fairly abstract drawing that nevertheless is a direct response to an experience, allows me to work freely but not randomly. What has prevented me from becoming an abstract painter hitherto has been that threat of randomness; that lack of any anchor whatsoever between meaningful communication and untethered ego-indulgence.
I have, almost, worked this way before. 'Passage' was done mostly on a repeat loop to the final track of Rachel's 'The Sea and the Bells,' 'His Eyes.'
A dear friend of mine (hi Jake!) made a video for me, incorporating moving images of my paintings with relevant pieces of music, but I think to really get it right I'm going to have to operate the camera myself; so much of it is kinesthetic, about a specific movement relating to a specific shape, sound and color.
Another concern of mine is that this way of working not become a 'schtick.' Rebecca suggested that I take commissions to visually represent people's favorite pieces of music; although it's a good moneymaking idea, this would absolutely not work for me. I pick these pieces of music because they resonate with me and my style. Doing cheery little depictions of the latest Britney Spears hit would not only be agony, but probably impossible.
So don't even ask.