Three pieces on the go at the moment, the orchestral work, the chamber work, and a possible competition entry for percussion duo. While still trying to tie up the loose ends of the first two it is the last of the three to which I am returning most often, and only partially because of the imminent deadline.
I like to use competition pieces as test beds for new ideas, and have decided in this one to use unpitched percussion only, so as to remove all the temptations and comforts that pitch can bring, Instead I will need to use timbre, colour, rhythm, dynamic, accent and so on to articulate what I want to say.
I normally begin each piece by writing an outline of what I want to achieve, and a very rough diagram of how the music will progress, but I have become more and more aware as time passes that I only very rarely adhere to the hard edges of this, and that usually the music is much the better for it.
In this percussion work, for example, I set out duration and balance for all of its sections, but it took only a day’s work for me to venture off-book and strike out in a new direction. My original sketched outline was still useful in letting me know where various material would fit, and also, as it happened, in providing my better half with an ideal template for the satirical version she left on my work desk for me to find.
Like the drive from London to Somerset, sometimes I go via Stonehenge, sometimes via Bath, and sometimes via Bristol, and there have been many other variations along the way. It is the start and end points that are most important to fix – the rest makes up the story of the journey.