Last week was reasonably calm after all the tumult of the Christmas period, and it feels as though things are settling into that beginning-of-year rhythm that was the way of things before Covid. I have continued tapping away on the new orchestral piece, tackled a couple of technical matters (again), and fired off an entry for a competition.

I have also done much more listening than would normally do, possibly as a result of not being out and about quite as much as at the end of last year, and am constantly reinvigorated by what I hear and discover, whether that be a string quartet by Dvorak that I did not know or an intriguing concoction by some bright new star of the compositional firmament. The more one hears the more there is to discover, of course, and most of us will still only ever scratch the surface of what is out there.

I think that what gets to me the most is how fluent so much of that music is. I must confess that I struggle at times to capture that in my music – at last, I feel that I struggle to capture it – and often think of my own output as rather stodgy and staid in comparision to other people’s work, which sounds so accomplished to me. It is simultaneously something that makes me wonder why on earth I continue to do this writing thing and yet pushes me onwards to keep improving.

Of course, I realise that I am rarely comparing apples with apples, that I am putting somebody else’s finished product against material of my own that is still in some state of disarray. As if I needed any confirmation of that, there is the shaming knowledge that I sometimes listen to some of my better completed works from years ago and wonder how on earth I managed to write such a thing. It is as if it belongs not just to a different time but also to an entirely different person.

I think that part of this pondering, especially at the moment, has been triggered by my doing some research on Lutosławski’s music (yes, again) and I have been struck by his assertation that for much of career he could not write as he wanted so instead wrote as he was able to. It has hammered home to me that I am definitely in that “as I am able to” camp and that the only way that I shall finally be able to break through into the fluency for which I really yearn is through going back to individual elements time and time again and strengthening my technique tiny step by tiny step.