I finished off a stint of work yesterday morning with a listen through the entire symphony from top to toe, just over half an hour of material, and it sounds – well, it is definitely beginning to sound like a symphony. There are a couple of sections where it retreats to a single line of music, where I still need to add details and textures, but the vast majority of it is close to complete and some of it sounds very complete indeed.
Revising the movements in rotation has also been interesting, because I move on from one to the next once I have done a little revision rather than staying and working out the details. This means that when I come back to that particular movement to do my next stint of work I have more or less forgotten the changes I made, and they take me by surprise.
It is a neat little trick which allows me to listen through with fresh ears and to hear immediately whether something works or not. For all the technical underpinnings and the proportional scaffolding that supports the piece, ultimately it will rise or fall based on whether it works as it travels through time, and for that I need to trust my ears and my instincts.
The sections that need more material are, in general, short and unimportant, and the moments that need refining are currently easy to hear, so I do not think that the forthcoming weeks will cause too much trouble. Little by little and day by day I shall keep adding, taking away and polishing and with a bit of luck I shall have a finished work by the end of the month.
At some point I shall sit back, take in the whole piece and think that it is done, and I wonder how I shall feel at that point, for it will mark the end of a long-held ambition but the start of another, that of actually getting it performed. I am also gradually dropping the title that I had for the work – if one can drop a title gradually – for I find it too proscriptive in terms of how the music should be approached. It will be hard to look back on this piece written at this time and not find recent events in it, but it is about much more than that, and hopefully it will convey those contents to whatever listeners it might find.