Although I seem to stuck in the ever more busy build up to Christmas there was still a patch yesterday afternoon when I was able to sit down for an hour or so, and I decided to do a little more composition study, covering again a chapter I had read last week. My intention in my time off is to study these things in proper depth, rather than simply skimming and assuming that the information is slowly seeping into my brain.

This chapter was about an area of composition that I have been keen to explore, but have not yet had the time or, if I am honest, the skills to master, and it can be hard after over forty years as a composer since I scrawled that first Amen on a piece of paper to admit that there are some areas in which I am still a beginner. Having said that, self-criticism is essential in any kind of creative endeavour, and once more I think of Da Vinci and his innumerable sketches.

So I made a couple of doodles, harmonic, rhythmic, melodic, and then sat there for a while in a trance-like state attempting to decipher why one particular progression felt that much better than another. Eventually I realised why, and a tiny light bulb lit up in my head, a conclusion that served to clarify when something particular should be used and for what purpose.

It was not much, a simple progression of three chords, but it did, as all satisfying composition should, make me think about every single note. It seems like a very slow way indeed to write, but given that I cannot really write in this style at all at the moment, I think that I will gladly take ‘slowly’, and get on with the business of committing those newly acquired skills to instinct so that fluency may come in due course.

So even on days like yesterday – and today – when time and opportunities are scarce it is worth getting something down onto paper and it keeps the mental side ticking over, provides sketches for possible future use and, heavens, I might even learn something as well. Also, tonight there is a performance of Sweet Was The Song at St. Mary Abbots, which will help to remind me why I do all this in the first place.