I spent a delightful evening in the company of Jeremy Summerly and the Mayfield Festival Choir yesterday, chatting over Zoom in a meet-the-composer type thing, partially to discuss the Cantata Of Saint Dunstan, which they will be performing, but also to have a natter about the journey that has brought me here. I came away from the screen invigorated, for not only was the entire experience fun and involving, as one would expect from Mr. S, one of my favourite people, but it also slightly bolstered my sense of self, which, after a tricky year, was rather welcome.
In fairness I do not fundamentally doubt myself as a composer, but I do sometimes wonder what it is for, who will listen to it and, still nagging away at me after all this time, whether all that music is any good, but if it is not then at least I can console myself with the knowledge that I have managed to get away with it for upwards of forty years so far, so why stop now? Thankfully, after chatting through the Cantata I came away thinking that the piece was not too shabbily written.
I had also listened to it on Sibelius in the morning, my first encounter with the work for over six months, and while there are some movements that I enjoy perhaps a little more than others, I am pleased with its shape and the way that it progresses, and at this stage there is very little that I would change. I did, however, pick up two errors in the one hundred and seventeen page (!) score which have since been corrected, so it was time well spent.
I finished chatting to the MFC by saying that deep down, as with all of my music, I want people to come away after a first listen not entirely sure of what to make of it, that it is never my intention to make music that, in Charles Ives’s words, allows the ears to lie back in an easy chair, but which demands to be experienced once or twice more before it begins to reveal its inner workings and coherence. In a disposable age when so much music is clicked through after less than ten seconds maybe that is a folly, but such is the way it is.
Mind you, it is the same with the board games that I play and review, so maybe it is just something about the way that I experience things, but something that offers superficial pleasure and no depth is never going to come close to a competitor that offers progressively greater rewards the more you explore it. Does my music inhabit that second category? I can certainly argue over a Zoom call that it does, but those doubts sometimes persist, and as long as they do, on we go.