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Sometimes progress in composition can tick along in what I like to refer to as tectonic time, akin to plates shifting around on the Earth’s surface. I do not mean the process of writing, which is a little quicker, more the whole commission-writing-performance thing which, if one is very lucky, can eventually lead to some more interest.  Every now and again, however, something happens akin to an earthquake, the stars align and that imperceptible progress suddenly becomes apparent and readily visible. I have the impression that this is happening more often for me, and encouraging it is too.

To cut a long story short, what this means is that I am in a position to announce that I will be writing a choral work to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Exeter College, Oxford in 2014, this coming on the heels of their broadcast of This Joyful Eastertide earlier this month. That this whole chain of events was triggered by a chance remark made by a singer last year, which led to the writing of the piece, which led to the broadcast, which led to this is yet another reminder that no effort in this business is wasted.

It is also important to say, as I have written before, that a composer is largely reliant on a support network of enthusiastic musicians in order to help with the promotion and dissemination of their work, and that much depends on the selfless efforts of this band of people. I have lost count of the number of performances, broadcasts and commissions which have come my way through this kind of advocacy, and the Exeter commission is another example of the right person in the right place thinking that I might be the man for the job.  This kind of support is always appreciated.

While this piece is, as yet, textless, there is already discussion about a recording of the work by one of the larger labels, prior even to the first public performance, and even though there is many a slip twixt cup and lip in this line of work, it is still good news.

Over the weekend there have also been intimations of two other large projects moving towards confirmation, one for 2014 and one for 2015. While neither of these is at the stage yet where it could be considered set in stone, both pieces have taken a significant step forwards, enough people onside to ensure that there might just be enough momentum to make these works happen. Both would generate a decent amount of publicity and possibly broadcasts as well, and come with a smattering of prestige attached, all good for the brand. I also heard the words “possible commission” mentioned on yet another occasion over the weekend, and had a fascinating chat with a long standing friend of mine on Sunday evening, somebody well connected in music publishing.

In the middle of all this excitement I am still in the throes of a bout of orchestrating and arranging, which seems to grow daily to consume the free time I have managed to clear, but this is all grist to the mill, a chance to explore different avenues in orchestration and let my imagination run just a little free. Then there is also the piece for string orchestra, to which I add a few seconds worth of material whenever I manage to snatch the time, often exploring different harmonic progressions and layering lines on the top. I am quite taken with the sound world of this work thus far, modern but still laced with traditional triadic functions, an interesting departure for my language, or maybe a step forwards.

I intend to take the lessons I am learning from the string piece and apply them to the work for Exeter, although the harmonic language for this will be reined in ever so slightly by comparison, probably sitting somewhere in what I call my “extended tonal” style. I have already created some harmonic charts for this work, even at this early stage, enjoying the sandpit stage of a composition – playing with various ideas – more and more as I develop as a writer and view the various possibilities.

I am hoping to get some decent stints of work done this week. The Parliament Choir concert is nearly upon us, also a couple of other engagements, and the Anghiari introductions, something like seventy of them in English and Italian, will have to be written at some point in the next few weeks. Quietly I also think that I need to get ahead as much as possible while I have the chance, for there may be other opportunities just around the corner, and I want to be able to fit in as many as I can.

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