I am pleased to say that I managed to plough through pretty much all of my imminent to-do list yesterday, from emails, letters and other documents to a very simple and very short piece for a competition whose deadline is not afar off. In the evening we went to our favourite eaterie in Bath where, again, everything was once more spot on. Swordfish, since you ask.
The simple and short piece put me through my standard compositional emotions in a very short space of time, that initial inspirational kernel followed by the oh-so-familiar journey of feeling that I have no idea what I am doing, that I have completely run out of ideas, and then the gradual and ultimately successful teasing out of motifs and material until the entire work is there in front of me, albeit unpolished. I would have thought after so long writing music that I would be fully conversant with this emotional journey, but it still takes me by surprise, still fills me with the terrible fear that I have finally dried up and sketched out my last idea.
Sometimes I envy Sibelius that post-conflagration life, remember how light his long suffering wife said he had become after he shoved all those manuscripts into the kitchen stove and lit himself a large cigar as they were consigned to ashes. But for the fact that I would kick him (very, very hard) in the shins for popping the presumably near-complete Eighth Symphony on there as well, I think I can imagine how liberating that whole experience must have been.
One of my very favourite books is Tonio Kröger by Thomas Mann, not least because I have always felt that the eponymous character, the wayward artist sprung from the union of the exotic southern mother and the respectable northern father is in so many ways a reflection of me. At one point one of the characters in the book, probably Tonio himself, says that one cannot take a leaf from the tree of art without paying for it with one’s life, and I have always agreed with that, even when I was a mere stripling and encountering the book for the first time.
He also says that art is not a gift but a curse, and there are days when I think that also, wonder if this particular demon on my shoulder is ever going to keep quiet, assuming instead that it will keep on goading until I run out of breath. At the end of the book Tonio, rather than finding true peace, instead finds some sort of acceptance of who he is, enough to enable him to accept the doubts and fears that he faces, and I think that I am more or less at that stage as well, even if the terrors still sneak in from time to time.