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I spent most of yesterday running around the capital, a meeting at the British Library first thing in the morning to discuss some lecturing later in the year followed by playing for a funeral in Kensington and a rehearsal back in town in the evening. In between I managed to head home for a short time, hide from the sun and prepare a competition entry to go off in this morning’s post. I also uploaded the St. Mary Abbots Jubilate to the website, so curious folks can have a look and see what they think.

What I had intended to be a day of relaxation today turned instead into one filled with dull domestic chores (Sainsbury’s, supermarket, washing up, vacuuming) and attempts to organise my life into something meaningful and productive. This led inexorably to that curse of the modern age, hours spent trying to get various bits of electronic equipment to talk to each other. I am sick to death of hammering away at various forums because this file is missing or because I need to upgrade to that bit of software, at a price, of course. Some good did come out of it, however, for I added another piece of independent software to my portfolio, meaning that Thunderbird now sits snugly alongside Firefox and OpenOffice, all free and easy to use, of course.

Firefox and Thunderbird – long live free software, OpenOffice too.

Domesticity and note writing (lecture notes rather than musical ones) took up so much time that the day rather slid hazily away without any writing being done, but tomorrow promises to be much more productive on that front, and I have added some more competitions to my target list. There will still be other things to be done tomorrow, of course, but I hope that those significant chunks of the day one has to give over to mundanities will be rather shorter, and the time given over to writing and, with luck, gaming and perhaps a pre-weekend sharpener will be correspondingly longer.

One of the competitions I am thinking of entering had a wonderful critique of some of last year’s entries on its website, blunt to the point of devastating accuracy about some of the infelicities of many modern compositions. They are also keen to encourage hand-written scores as submissions, stating, quite rightly, that “An overreliance on notation programs, coupled with the ability to input music directly at a computer interface, has, we fear, weaned budding composers away from a simple sheet of paper and an HB pencil. Pressing such an implement into the page is an entirely different haptic experience and will result in radically different music. We have nothing against Finale or Sibelius or Score, they are all amazing tools of the trade, but this is what they remain…something to be used after the fact, as soon as a piece has been composed.” The only bit I disagree with is the lead of the pencil – I prefer the ever so slight softness of the 2B, myself.

2B or not 2B? Important for some.

Despite all the frustrations of today I really do feel as though I am getting my house in order. Things of late have been busier than I might have expected a few months ago, and I need to up my game, both organisationally and compositionally, to match this brave new world, and I am aware that I need to write about something new very soon before people start to forget that I used to compose.

This evening I took the wrapping off one more game from my March haul, Assyria. Only one play was completed before computer woes stole the rest of my downtime, but this promises to be a real brain-burner, simple and elegant but with real depth and difficult choices to be made, even a slight pang of anguish when my little huts are wiped out by famine or flood. I won, but it transpired that we had the rules slightly wrong. No matter, however. When technical things can be such a pain, it can be a real joy to have a physical link from thought to action, whether placing pencil on manuscript or a miniature ziggurat on a board.

Assyria – when the next flood comes six of the huts here are in for it.

 

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