I am working on a short piece for solo melody instrument at the moment, nothing too expansive, just a gesture, and this afternoon I jettisoned the second version of it and began again from scratch. Some new ideas came to me as I drove back from London yesterday, and I felt that they had much more potential than the ones I had been working with previously. Those previous ideas had been a sketchbook for some new techniques, and it has taken me a few days to realise that I am probably much better off applying the knowledge of those techniques to my own ideas rather than imposing the technical side upon the music from the very start.
I often feel that my analytical side, which I often bring to bear on other people’s music, can be obstructive when it comes to writing my own. Clearly there needs to be some coherent thought in my writing, else there is no point (for me, at least) in the composition itself, but I am probably too harsh on myself too early on. Reginald Smith Brindle says in one of his books on composition that one needs to detach oneself entirely from one’s critical sense when sketching out a piece for the first time, and just write, applying the editorial process only later. In my own case I think that I often splash around in new fields, hoping that they might open the way to some previously undiscovered facility, when really I should be trying to find the essence of my voice and then apply new technical ideas to it.
So that is where I am at the moment, and version three of this new piece feels like the right one, less of the fumbling around for the light switch in the dark, and more of the structure just waiting for the right ideas to fill in the gaps. A lesson learned, I think.
Meanwhile the Parliament Choir were in great voice last night, possibly better than ever, and even through they were tired by the end of the rehearsal, it sounds as though Tu Es Petrus is going to go well in Cadogan Hall and in Paris. One singer even reckons that it is the best piece in the programme (very kind, but I have to disagree), and there is no doubt that they are enjoying singing it. By all accounts the latest rehearsal of Levavi Oculos by Cantores Salicium was similarly impressive, so the rest of April and May look to be positive, and with the good weather I even managed to sit out and write on the terrace this afternoon while my other half busied herself with pots and plants. I wonder how many garden centres Beethoven visited…