The detail, so they say, is where the devil is. Whether you believe in that kind of thing is up to you, of course, but it is fair to say that detail is an area often overlooked by aspiring and established composers in an attempt to get that final double bar line written and that commission finished. I have always believed (and this applies to many areas, not just composition) that a genuine attention to detail sets those who truly care for their work apart from those who are just happy to do it, and, boring though it may be, I take genuine pride in making sure that my scores are as accurate as they can be before they are sent off. An composer who has lived in the real world and dealt with real musicians or played music him or herself will know that a scrappily laid out score puts performers off straight away. In a previous life I played a decent amount of quite cutting edge contemporary music, and most of it was handwritten in a barely legible scrawl, which blunted my enthusiasm for deciphering those squiggles. Much of it was pretty unengaging as well, but that is for another blog entry.
This is all a rather waffly preamble to the announcement that I have spent the morning working on the latest piano piece. It has been “finished” for a while, but the path to typographic satisfaction can be a long one, and Sibelius, for all its undoubted qualities, is apt to get up to mischievous things when one’s back is turned – note stems changing direction, slurs moving a touch, that kind of thing – and it can take an iron will to keep it in line. Thus far I have proofed the piece several times, both on screen and in hard copy (always easier to spot mistakes that way, for some reason), and I have played it through in detail, to be sure that the bits which look impossible are actually playable, even if they might require some practice. I must say that I like the sound of it as well.
With the tidying of this and my other choral work the composing desk goes a little quiet. My copy of Vincent Persichetti’s Twentieth Century Harmony is close to hand, though, and I plan to get straight on with some exercises and craft acquisition while I ponder where my next scribbles will take me. I am having tentative thoughts about a fairly large orchestral work, but we shall see how that goes.
In the meantime, the Missa Sancti Nicolai will be performed at Christ Church, Hampstead on Sunday morning, and I’ll be playing the Festive Voluntary afterwards, so there will be plenty of O’Neill on the menu to enjoy/cross the road to avoid (delete as applicable). Both of these pieces are pretty much in the style I am beginning to accept as my own, and, although I might just change the smallest detail on each, I am still happy with them as music, and they have both had decent lives thus far, the one broadcast on Christmas Eve, the other a prize winner.
Things have settled into a happy rhythm in this little corner of the year. Work is fairly quiet, and that is allowing me to do things for myself and I am enjoying the current balance, although without a lage commission or two it is unlikely that I could maintain this relaxed lifestyle indefinitely. There is always hope, though, and it certainly gives me something to aim for and, on a day like today, up bright and early and having already achieved a large chunk of work, it feels good to be a composer.
I do have to admit that part of the reason I am up so early is to keep an eye on my bin men, who threw my rubbish all over the road last week and left it there, but today they have been very well behaved indeed. Lastly, and aware that the internet might collapse under the weight of yet another picture of a cat, I append an image of Dylan, he of the scrapes, fights and unbearable prettiness. Mr. Ocado delivered yesterday (yes, I know, how we live!) bringing pet supplies for the first time, and it took Dylan all of three minutes to work out what was in five sealed bags which themselves contained sealed bags, at which point he set about guarding them, Smaug-like. It is clear to see where the brains are in this house.