I seem to be blogging less this year, for which read “writing more”. I have been a little lazy over the past week in terms of getting my musings up onto the big wide web as well, which has not helped, but there’s no doubt that keeping a regular and fairly extensive journal of my compositional activities can take time away from those compositional activities themselves. Maybe it is just a blip, but time will tell.
The week just gone has been decent in terms of writing. I have completed Madrigal, an entry for a competition, written entirely away from the piano keyboard, and have also made substantial inroads into The Lord is my Light, likewise being written away from the keyboard for the time being. There is no doubt that the writing process is made substantially quicker by being able to bash out ideas on a piano, but I am convinced that the ears and the fingers can get in the way of the intellect when it comes to putting pieces together. I always remember Ives’s dictum that we should never confuse beauty with that which lets the ears lie back in an easy chair, and if I write “easy” music I want it to be because I have chosen to do so, rather than because I have slushed around on the keyboard and my ears have said “that’s nice”.
In both the above pieces I have written purely onto the compositional page (or screen, at a later stage in the process), and only very late on do I check what the piece actually sounds like. What then transpires is that there will often be moments which do not sound correctly, and it is usually because the language at these points is inconsistent with that in the rest of the piece. This often means that rough edges are rounded off, but it can mean just the opposite.
I have become very aware of late that my rate of writing would be substantially greater if I were to sit down at a keyboard and write my music from there, and I do still sometimes drum up basic ideas that way. Writing, though, is intellectual wrestling of a sort, a kind of Sudoku gone mad, and the challenge of unifying ideas across a large span is something which attracts me more and more as my canvasses get gradually larger. Whether the results will tickle the taste of a competition jury is another thing altogether, but it certainly can lead to interesting results and cause me to write music I might otherwise never have discovered.