I am digging around with some new techniques in my piece for cello. This is coming together slowly but surely, and I am taking the approach for now that more is better than less, and so I am consciously aiming to overwrite rather than underwrite, for once. Whereas I normally plan the outline of a composition and then write more or less to match, here I am setting out to write more than is necessary and then to prune, rather than to come up short and then need to extend.
This does make for some strange sensations, however, and I look at what there is of the piece at the moment and am strongly aware that it does not really make great sense as it stands, and that it will need determined work to hammer it into some kind of shape. Still, I think it was Brahms who said that the piece is finished only when you have taken out every single note you can afford to lose, and he knew what he was doing. In order to carry out that idea, though, you need to have too many notes to start with.
This cello piece is for a competition, of course, and those are the pieces where I tend to spread my technical wings from time to time, even though this does not always mean that I end up with the most secure piece as a result. It is very useful to run new ideas over the page and hear things I might not otherwise have imagined I could have written. Certainly, the way I am playing with the techniques currently at hand has been most useful and has thrown out some interesting results.
I heard the quite bold assertion yesterday that music was just mathematics, and must admit that I took a rather sharp intake of breath. Although sound and frequency are, of course, mathematically determined, there is so much more to music than that, including that whole nebulous world of ’emotion’. Music is, as Stravinsky said, powerless to express anything, rather it is our reaction to it (and the composer’s knowledge of how to elicit that reaction) which makes it so special. For some, of course, music may be mathematically created, but it is hard to reconcile that approach with the communication I feel is so much of the art, old fashioned though that view might be.
So onwards with the cello piece, wielding constructive processes to emotional ends. Bar by bar I become more comfortable with my tools and media, even if the piece itself might eventually be consigned to a dusty corner of my hard drive.