I alluded in my last post to using competition entries as an opportunity to try out new techniques and get to grips with developing ideas in my writing. Well, I went away from that post, struggled a bit more with the cello piece and then sat down for a good, long think about that whole approach. Those pieces I have written which have been successful in competitions have all, in retrospect, been pieces in which I believe I can hear “my” style, and the other pieces with which I am most happy all inhabit a similar area. As always, there are certain outliers, but there is a common thread running through all the pieces with which I am most content.
So, having fought, fought and fought again with the cello piece I decided to put all the sketches to one side and begin again from scratch, developing techniques I have used before on many occasions rather than fighting with new ones from a standing start. I have, as a result, found it much easier to understand what I am doing and how better to apply those ideas to this new piece. It has meant accepting that I will need to worry less about that bugbear question of contemporary composers (“Is it modern enough?”) and instead focus on whether I think the piece is any good and, more importantly, whether it is mine.
The cello piece, as far as it goes, now belongs to the same sound world as my latest choral piece and the nascent piano work, both of which I enjoyed writing, am happy with and are, I think, decently put together. It is a style with which I am conversant and which I am beginning to understand in some detail, thanks in no small part to bits of detective work here and there away from the composing desk about how chords interact, and so on and so on. There is still room for experimentation and novelty, but I think that in future I shall need to keep development work away from pieces and instead confined to exercises, and only then incorporate aspects of what I learn into my voice.
In other news, I hear that Flyht has been recorded, so we are now in that no-man’s-land of editing and engineering, but the tales are that the recording went well and that the choir dug in to the performance, something to savour later in the year, I hope. Of course, this piece has happened a little back to front, given that it is still officially unperformed, but it is rare indeed to know that a first public performance has had this much time and effort put into it already. Let’s just say that I am looking forward to April.