I have checked my calendar, and the last time I had four days at home was back in August, so it has been a real pleasure to settle down for a bit and, after a slightly bumpy first day (difficult to switch off and all that), to rediscover what life used to be like, back in the good old days of 2015. Work in the morning, gradually fading away in the afternoon to evenings in front of Inspector Morse.
Now, of course, it is my turn to do that annoying thing that my father used to do when those episodes were first shown, pointing out which college is which, how a left turn here does not lead to that street there, and every now and again a musical colleague turns up in a choir rehearsal, but looking so young as to be near unrecognisable. I am not sure how much I have spoken about Oxford in this blog, and generally refer to having been at “college” rather than “university” anyway, but it was…a mixed experience, let’s say.
Right slap bang in the middle of my Finals exams I received news that I had won an international composition competition, unanimously too, which rendered the remainder of my exams totally irrelevant in my head, because really what I did want was to be a composer and write music, not get funding for a doctorate and spend years in a dusty corner researching the monodic madrigals of Sigismondo d’India. Yes, really. Nothing against Sigismondo himself, who may well have been a fascinating fellow, but for me it has always been about defacing that naked page, putting my sounds onto it.
I still do that defacing now, of course, sometimes directly onto the screen, often onto the page, and continue to work hard at the dream of doing very little else. It is always next year that I will make the final leap, throw myself into it completely and unabashedly, but it is beginning to feel as though it really is about time to do it, despite that fact that I am no longer bright (possibly) or young (definitely) enough to be the next bright, young thing.
If writing your first masterworks in your forties was good enough for Brahms, Haydn, Elgar and Lutoslawski, though, then it is certainly something to which I should not be ashamed to aspire, and if I had had a little more time around and about various other things then maybe those works, master or otherwise, would already be here, but the cards fall where they fall. Composition, however, for all the tough work, remains a release for me, a hard and gritty kind of play, which is often the kind of play I enjoy as well, another important part of my life. I have been getting plenty of that in over the past days as well, with a variety of opponents, as you can see below, because, after all, we do not stop playing because we grow old, but rather we grow old because we stop playing, even if that play manifests itself in sketching sounds and doodles on manuscript.