A little bit of this and a little bit of that yesterday, some writing and some orchestrating of the same piece, the work for narrator and ensemble. I have been hesitant about the orchestration on this for some time, but have settled for the time being on a chamber grouping of different colours, having heard the Britten Sinfonietta in Anghiari and coming away dead impressed.
The scoring, subject to change, of course, is currently as follows – flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, harp, violin, viola, cello. The harp is there because the subject of the narration and therefore the piece is Welsh, and the instrument bears a strong association with that country. It is helpful that it can also act in an accompanimental role, like a substitute piano. I am hesitant, as always, about using both oboe and clarinet, as they cover similar ranges, essentially that octave between the flute and bassoon, so, although their colours are substantially different, their range and role can end up being rather similar. I am going to try to work through some solutions on this piece.
I have also decided to keep the string section rather sparse, so no double bass and no second violin. Having two violins would muddy the texture of such individual lines across the scoring, and the double bass is unnecessary, I think, as I would like to keep things very light indeed. The bassoon and harp are always available to cover the lower end of things, should the need arise.
There is something very exciting about seeing a piano sketch take flight as an orchestrated work. It may sound strange, but even the sight of it on the page sounds different, much leaner and taughter, and what may sound rather drab on the keyboard can attain an edge, especially where the keener sounds of the reed instruments are involved. Harmonically I feel that this piece is somewhere between very conservative and slightly modern, and I am unsure as to how the audience will react come the day of the first performance. I am also trying to describe certain ideas mentioned in the narration, so it will be a challenge to make these come across immediately.
I am trying to fight the temptation to play to the gallery, and would rather write my own music and put it out there. Clearly, one needs to hit the correct target for the commissioner, but it is easy to forget that even the confirmation of the commission itself acts as a kind of temporary seal of approval.
For today, then, I shall continue the dual tasks of writing new material and orchestrating existing lines side by side. I think this piece might take a little longer to write than I had anticipated, and, although there is plenty of time in which to get it written, there are other works lined up which might take priority before the month is out, so it is up to me to get scribbling while the time is available.