There are certain fields of composition in which I feel I have not done too badly, but there are others in which there is still a huge amount that I want to achieve. The temptation is always to stick to what one knows, but the reality lies elsewhere, in the inevitable truth that real improvement comes from attempting what was previously thought impossible.
In terms of motivation I think that I can generally talk a good game, go on about it not being about how hard you hit but how hard you can get hit and still get up, about getting thrown off the horse and getting straight back on, but some days are certainly better than others. On the bad days even getting three or four notes onto paper can feel like swimming through glue.
It does not help that so much of the world of composition happens at a tectonically slow pace and that there can be so much time between cause and effect that it can be difficult to know what you have done right. Throw in a couple of false signals along the way and it can be very tough going.
Let us take the symphony, for example, a piece being written without commission, orchestra or performance. Is it any good? Will it ever exist outside my head and the computer? Will it ever even be finished and, if so, what really is the point of it? I would reply that the point of it is for me to improve and to tackle large-scale form and that performances or not hardly matter, but there has been a great deal of musing about the purpose of it all, especially as the piece has lived through this entire pandemic.
Maybe it is just that the alternative – giving up – feels just to grim to bear, and maybe it is that fortune favours the brave and that luck is merely preparation given an opportunity. As I write this on Sunday morning the new Formula One season is but a few hours away, and having watched the latest series of Drive To Survive I have been reminded that being in last place at the end of lap one (or even with less than half the race to go, Canada 2011) does not mean that the chance of a win has gone, that a demotion can result in reinvention and salvation, and that some things are worth more than the simple day to day.