In an attempt to wash away the blues I put in a diligent and sustained stint of work this morning on the new orchestral thing, whatever it might turn out to be. I was determined to fill in some of those gaping blanks with something – anything – and give myself some idea of the framework of it all.
The irony is that for once I have a relatively detailed idea of how the piece should play out, rough timings and proportions and letters and arrows all bouncing around the pages of my notepad to give me the bare bones of what might emerge. In the past I have found this kind of approach to be very tight indeed, and only rarely have I found it liberating in terms of being able to write, but something has definitely changed this time around.
Perhaps it is that this time I am exercising some freedom within those structural bounds, so that rather than locking down everything before filling in the notes I am instead hinting at what should be there. This kind of speed, that kind of dynamic, a slightly thinner texture than the sections around it – those kinds of things.
I have mentioned recently, I think, that Ian Wilson, one of the finest composers working today, decided some time ago to let instinct be his guide and to rely less on preconstructed formal ideas. Sadly I am a long way off from Ian in many terms, including confidence, but today has certainly felt like a tentative step in the right direction.
I have always shied away where possible from writing by instinct, but I think I need to recognise that it is formed by experience, and maybe I should trust those feelings that I have a little more often, believe that all that listening and writing and performing has formed a set of aesthetic values that do not necessarily need to be thought about as often as I might suspect. We wonder these days why we are sometimes afraid of spiders when we know most of them not to be poisonous, but the answer is that we are here precisely because our ancestors were scared enough to keep away from them, even the non-poisonous ones. You know, just in case.