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I took myself back to school yesterday and worked on my melodic technique, grinding through some of the assignments in my various composition books, although ‘grinding’ is probably too harsh a word given that I found it to be quite a pleasurable experience. Not only that, but I ended up with one or two snippets of material which could conceivably find their way into larger works and learned a couple of things too. The first exercise of today will involve writing something “with no discernible structural intention or design whatsoever”, which rather goes against my creed, but if you need to defeat your enemy you sing his song, I guess. I like the way that the author has gallantly included the word “discernible” in that phrase, as if hedging his bets. The example he uses to illustrate that technique is by Bruno Maderna, by the way, in case you are interested in listening to some possibly random notes.

Even in the exercise set for this technique I have gone about finding interval patterns and the like, and I assume that says something about me as a composer and the way I like to approach my writing. Still, it is probably a low-input high-impact technique for writing something that sounds modern, so I await the results of my first work of the day with interest. One of the examples I completed yesterday made use of one of Messiaen’s techniques, and I was rather pleased with the result, to the extent that the exercise itself has been filed away with the tentative marking “for future use” scribbled thereupon.

I really do hope that diving into this kind of study will enable me reculer pour mieux sauter, something which I have always believed is worth the effort. Even if I complete nothing of note (or of notes, perhaps) during this patch, if I can emerge from it with a technique which allows me to write more appropriately for the forces involved and more fluently as well, then I will have made great strides. I remember the days when I would manage 10 minutes of writing and then get hopelessly stuck, that syndrome of people who have started writing many books but finished none of them, and now I am much better at getting things down onto paper, but there is a long road still to travel.

I still felt pretty groggy yesterday after my sneezing and sniffling of Sunday evening, and, if truth be told, am still not operating at 100% today, although I am confident that the worst is over. As the end of the month approaches I am becoming a little worried about the upcoming mortgage payment, not because I cannot manage it, but because I am reluctant to dip into my reserves for the second time in a month. I am working hard to secure a secondary source of income rather than take on a day’s school teaching again from September, and that could come from any one of many places – commissions (obviously my preferred option!), a lovely competition win (a close second), or playing and conducting. There are also some other options out there on which I am working hard in my spare time, but these are not to do with composition so not really for this blog. My target for this year, of course, was to break even, so I think that I shall sit down with a calculator this afternoon and see how things are going now that I am heading for the six month mark.

I could do with a commission to see me through at the moment, maybe to work on alongside my exercises. I am in that between pieces stage and therefore undecided about what to write, although more and more I am drawn back to the sketches I started towards the end of last year. Given that one of those sets of sketches could, when finished, go straight into a competition, it would seem to be a sensible idea to get scribbling on them, so that does seem to be the way to go. I only worry that, alongside my dabbling into various techniques, it might end up as some terrible patchwork quilt of mishmashed styles. Some composers have done very well out of that polystylistic thing, but frankly I can’t really be dealing with it.

Today is another opportunity for learning something new, therefore, so I should dig out pencil, paper and textbook and get on with it. I am already a better writer than I was this time yesterday, so I intend to continue those small steps, those small efforts put in day in and day out.

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