Despite a very late night, self-inflicted, planned and very much enjoyed, I was up relatively early this morning, sitting at my composing desk and doing some research over my morning coffee. I have been reading up about being a composer, which is quite different from reading up about composing, inspired in a way by the conversation over lunch on Tuesday, but also by unearthing some very pertinent remarks from a composer called Alan Belkin. Belkin is a hugely generous man, having made his books on form, counterpoint, orchestration and harmony available for free on the internet. I refer to them often, but the phrase which grabbed me yesterday was from his Letter To A Young Composer, even if I no longer fulfil one of those criteria. He writes that “more important than seeking ‘originality’ is simply looking for ways to make your music better, the way a craftsman is always interested in better tools and better methods”, and thoughts similar to these have certainly been on my mind very much over the past few weeks, especially since hearing the first version of Flyht and jettisoning the first (“original”) version of my cello piece in favour of the much more successful current version.
To this end I completed a couple of technical exercises this morning, deliberately choosing the harmonic style in which I think I am coming to settle, and it is fair to say that, even in those few bars of work, I learned something new. I then realised that I invest a decent chunk of my time in other pursuits which tend to lead nowhere, and that that time could be much better invested in my writing. There are decisions to be made, a frequent refrain on this blog, to be sure, but true none the less.
With the wind in my sails I finished the first draft of my new piano piece, with which I am very pleased, but, then again, it is in what I think is “my” voice rather than some experimental scribble in a style I have never attempted before. Title page, expression, phrasing, layout, dedication, programme note are all done, which is a decent return on the day. I now have plenty of time for this one to simmer before it is sent to its recipient. I think it might even be good enough to submit for a competition, but a different fate awaits this piece.
After the final touches to this and to the new choral piece it all goes quiet on the commission front for the time being, although, from experience, I know that things can happen at any time. There is an arranging project to get done before the end of March, also some juicy competitions before the end of the year but, if things stay as they are, I will have plenty of time to get down to some serious technical work. It is a good sign that I feel so enthusiastic about it.