The morning is clearly a good time for me to be working, tapping away gently on the latest composition while I count the number of “absolutely!”s on the Today programme and wonder who will win between the interrupting interviewer and the interviewee who refuses to stop talking. I continued work into the deepest parts of the second half of the symphony and then tracked back, listened to the whole thing through from the beginning to remind myself how (and whether) it hangs together.
I spent a little time working on the join between the slow section that begins the second span and the finale into which it leads, adding in a new element that may or may not stay there until the work is finished. It is a quotation which I feel deserves a place in the work, but I am worried that its appearance might also make the piece too specific and take it out of its own sound world.
Still, there it sits at the moment, and probably the best way for me to approach it is simply to forget that it exists, listen to the piece again and let it take me by surprise. If it feels right maybe one hundred times in a row then it definitely belongs in the work, but otherwise it will have to be excised.
That process of refining by listening is certainly where the art takes over from the science a little, that feeling of proportion and inevitability or otherwise honed over many years of eclectic listening. It also needs the composer to be utterly unforgiving in the criticism of their own writing, to give themselves a much harder time than they would to other scribblers.
There is no getting round it though – you really do need to be that critical if your work is going to be of a high standard, and I suspect that there are many people out there who do not go through all those layers of refinement, but all that wonderful stuff that you see on film or hear in the concert hall is without exception the result of countless hours of revision. Often it is teams who work in film and television, but the composer tends to work alone, all the more reason to be really harsh on oneself, but then to stick on the coffee and administer a pat on the back for a decent morning of work.