Student and teacher

August is always a quiet time of year for the professional musician, at least for this one, but that relative calm also means that I can begin to get on with the things that have managed to escape me at other times. I would hardly compare myself to Mahler, who spent his summer holidays putting together his latest symphony in a hut while the rest of his family presumably went about their distinctly lighter business, but there is definitely a sense of being able to return to matters that have slipped by the wayside.

At the head of those matters is composition, of course, and I managed to get some work done on both of the latest pieces in the past week, the choral work and the orchestral sketches, while also playing with the earliest of early ideas for something else. I am also gradually beginning to refine my focus on something that has always been there at the back of my mind, but which somehow never seems to be close enough to the front to become a matter of urgency, which is the editing of older pieces.

I have many pieces on file which I put together in the days of the earlier versions of Sibelius, long before I finally settled on my house style, and these could definitely do with some updating, for the decisions I made back then, while probably well-intentioned at the time, have not always aged well. We are talking about fonts and spacings and other matters, but it could all be improved by bringing it into my more modern age.

Then there is the massive pile of manuscripts that lives in the big box in the eaves, pieces written back in the days when composers still wrote everything down by hand and, yes, the world was in black and white back then and there were only three channels on the TV and we had to keep appointments because mobile phones and voicemail was off there somewhere in the future. Anyway, some of those pieces are doubtless little more than obscure curiosities, a status they have only for me, and could probably do with being burned, but others might well benefit from being recast, no matter how ungainly I might find them. There might even be something worthwhile in there, who knows?

It is not as if other composers have not leapt upon their earlier works enthusiastically, and I might even end up learning something from my younger self as well, which would have pleased the twentysomething me no end, for he rather liked that kind of thing. Bringing my own early works to myself, being at once student and teacher, could be quite interesting, and we might both end up taking something from the process on those days when the creative juices are not flowing quite enough for me scribbles, when the actual writing is being done in the background.