I ended up with some time free yesterday, unexpectedly so, and with a musical instrument within my reach, so I began sketching out some ideas for the new piece for the Parliament Choir. Like most “serious” composers, I endeavour to work away from the keyboard, as I tend to find that it colours my ideas somewhat, but I also find that it helps things along, especially in terms of understanding how and why something may or may not work.

It also makes my work much quicker, so however much I might like to be the compositional purist, I think instead that I shall write at the keyboard on the sly and, like Schoenberg, pretend that I was nowhere near the piano when people suddenly drop by. For many years I have been in the habit of forming the ideas in my head and then roadtesting them on the piano, and finding one’s best way of working is such an important part of the creative process.

It turns out that the basic harmonic material for this piece is going to be quite similar to that for Gabriel, That Angel Bright, but I do not feel that is necessarily a bad thing, and, in any case, it may well be that the deep recesses of my brain are telling me that there is much more to be done with the material I used in that work. I managed to get a decent number of sketches together, forge what I believe will be the harmonic world of the piece – usually priority number one for me – and also set to work hammering a singable text out of Kepler’s wonderful but slightly verbose prose.

I am up against a deadline on this piece as well, so it is a good thing to get started as and when I can, and I will be travelling with the sketches in tow so that I can add to them on various tube journeys over the coming days. Time was when I always took the opportunity to write on public transport, but the Piccadilly line can be full of folks with enough suitcases to make the cash registers at Ryanair positively purr with glee, so unless I can learn to write while standing up and crushed, I will need to take other opportunities.

Tomorrow I am back at RAK Studios with Joe, recording the string parts for the second half of his album. As I have written, I felt completely at home the last time we did this, always am when people tell me what to do (a classic accompanist), so although I am aware that things need to be as correct as can be and that matters might become pressured, I think it is going to be a good couple of days.

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