A long time friend, now an award-winning composer, recently Tweeted (presumably with a capital T) that composing was fun and proof reading was difficult. My immediate reaction to this was that, for me, it is the other way around – composing is really hard work and the attention to detail required to proof something correctly and accurately is an enjoyable challenge to my abilities. It got me thinking about whether I have things entirely back to front, or whether I simply need to enjoy my writing a little more.
In the past two months or so I have done less in the way of exploring other techniques and more in the way of developing my own. While this now means that my voice is probably not as modern as that of some others, at least it is my voice, and modernity, lest we forget, should not be confused with quality simply because we do not like to admit that we do not understand it. The important thing is to keep questing and developing one’s own technique, and if it has taken me over thirty five years of writing to admit that, then, well, better late than never. At my age Elgar and the like were only just about to break through, so I have a little breathing space yet.
If there is a downside to having a very reliable builder, it is that they are on your doorstep at eight o’clock every morning and, for a night owl like me, that is a little wearing after four weeks of work, especially when Sunday mornings also necessitate an early start. I have therefore rewarded myself with a couple of late starts and can still feel some latent tiredness behind the eyes. Now that the regular visits to Homebase are also falling away I have been able to get back to my composing desk and pick up work on my viola concerto.
As with so many projects, starting is the most difficult bit, but I determined to write what I felt was correct and then go back and do the refining later, and I have to say that I have filled in a decent amount of material today, so much so that the entire central section of the first movement is working with some assurance, building towards the climax in a convincing manner, even at this early stage. I might even have enjoyed the process, and that is certainly a step in the right direction.
I am still undecided as to whether this piece is a single- or two-movement work, and it is sitting on the fence at the moment, genuinely liable to fall into either formal garden at a moment’s notice. A few months down the line there is a competition for which this piece might just fit nicely, so I imagine that the regulations for that will have the final say, but I suspect the direction of my writing will become clearer in a few days time.
This also feels very much like a piece in search of a title, a title still nebulously evasive at the moment. There is no hurry for this, as I am sure something will make itself known, and I would rather that the music imposed itself upon the title rather than the other way round.
It has been a refreshing change to write quickly and fluently and to come up with some decent results, and I wonder why this does not happen more often. I think I worry too much about the technical aspect of writing (even though it is important to me) and need to come to grips with what I tell my students, that there are two phases to composition, the critical appraisal being very much the second.