It’s a funny old game, this composing lark. After several years you start to get used to the rhythms of it all, but it still takes an effort to believe in yourself when things go quiet. It has been many years now since I have really worried about whether the phone will ring with playing or directing work, but commissions are a different matter. Unless you are a bright young thing, which I have to admit I probably am not any more, then it really is a case of hard graft over a geologically long period of time, and the pulse and rhythm of daily musical life are stretched out in the slowest of slow motion for composers.
Like waiting for a bus, though, occasionally you spend ages wishing for a commission and then two come along at once, or at least the initial proposals do. Only a few hours after my last post I was approached by two people, separately and within the space of fifteen minutes, about new pieces. I am now in that no-man’s-land of coming up with initial proposals and ideas and seeing where they end up, but after the technical grind of the past few months I have been pleasantly surprised, even so far as amazed at how much the hint of a new commission can help creativity, to the extent that one of the works is already coming along well in various sketches. Better still, the technical work of the past few month, even though it seemed slightly scattergun and fragmentary at the time, has actually helped, to the extent that I feel much more confident about these pieces “going forward” (I hate that phrase, but it seems to be common currency these days) than I would have done otherwise. That is undoubtedly a lesson to be learned and applied to the way that I approach the ebbs and flows of compositional life.
In other news I’m delighted to be accompanying Alison Balsom in a recital next week. We have worked together once before, but to be asked back is both an honour and a privilege, and I am looking forward to the concert very much indeed. It has been a good week, I’d say, and the sun is even shining outside after the beautiful snow shower just after I arrived home in the dead of last night. Even better, I have to get to grips with Beethoven’s magnificent Missa Solemnis over the next couple of weeks for a lecture (I know, such hardship!). I have said it before and I shall say it again, I shall go to my grave aghast at the sheer audacity of that final Presto section in the Gloria of that transcendent work, surely one of the most exhilarating moments (in one of the most exhilarating movements) in music.