A quick clear of the composing desk, a slight rearrangement of the papers, a realignment of the pencils, all signs that there is a commission on the horizon. Well, there are two to be exact, both at a very early stage, but both likely to happen, I hope.
Each of them is in that stage of needing the correct text, and so the long and slightly laborious hunt for the right words is already under way. This can be a frustrating experience, and the knowledge that I set and rejected two complete poems when writing what would become The Human Seasons last year sits at the back of my mind, nagging me.
Finding a suitable text is only half the battle, though, because the poem itself must be something that can be set convincingly. Some poets and some languages give themselves over freely and easily to musical expression, while some emphatically do not.
Shakespeare can be very tricky indeed, likewise Hardy, although there is something deeply satisfying about being able to set reclined by the chimney-nook quoin. Others such as John Clare and Christopher Smart offer up such a richness of image and sound that it is almost as if their text leaps into musical expression.
Out there on the distant horizon there are also a couple of competitions that take my fancy, again for choral works. I have always been careful not to ignore purely instrumental composition, so this concentration of text-based writing is not a deliberate step away from the purely abstract arena, just the way things happen to be at the moment.