For some time I have been in the habit of dating each day’s work on my computer so that, once a work has been transferred from manuscript to pixels, every new step is saved under a different title. This has several advantages, I believe. Most obviously, one can backtrack quite easily if the music suddenly finds itself up a blind alley. There is also the possibility of seeing how the music has evolved, quite how far it has come, something which can serve as a real boost to morale when progress appears to have become slow and ploddy. Lastly, and starkly, dating each file also shows just how long it has been since I did any work on a certain piece.
I set out a rigid timetable yesterday for getting my two current pieces done, and especially the string work. Today’s task was to crack the first movement, see if I could finally work out why it was going nowhere fast (well, at ninety crotchets per minute, to be precise). I had doodled on some printouts, but today was the first opportunity I have had for some time to get down and dirty with the notes themselves and I quickly realised that all my recent background thinking about this piece had indeed provided a means for freeing it from its current impasse, also that my sticking to the original plan for the movement was now redundant. The music I had written needed, obviously, to do the opposite of what I was trying to make it do.
It is clear also that my Anghiari listening has loosened some constraints in my mind, and I have been just a little more adventurous, a little more “well, let’s try this” about certain sections, letting the ideas fly instead of trying to cram notes into a rigid space. I think, little by little, I am coming to the idea that resorting to technique is a good way of getting out of a hole and generating material, but that imagination is much better when writing in the clear. Let the inspiration take flight, in other words, and then resort to perspiration where necessary.
The movement now looks pretty solid, the narrative that much more convincing (no more “ooh” moments for the sake of “ooh” moments, but instead a more logical flow), and the harmony more flexible. Ah, yes, the harmony. I have learned something important about the way I use harmony over the past month or so, and this piece has been the catalyst for that thought. Again, the moral of the story is to be free and then to constrain where necessary, not the other way around.