Once upon a time this blog was a daily thing, enthusiasm and all that, but it has since fallen into a gentle weekly rhythm. I could, at a push, go back to doing daily posts during the week – there would, heaven forfend, be more of my tapping away on subjects such as which band I am listening to/playing with, which composer I currently feel is unjustly neglected – but sticking a post out there on Monday mornings seems to be working well at the moment (and yes, I know that today is Tuesday..!). The only problem is that by the time I get around to writing a post I have often forgotten the specific details of what happened earlier in the week, but swings and roundabouts, I guess.
Well, the most important part of my musical week was finishing the symphony, if by ‘finishing’ one means ‘completing a first draft’. I managed this on Monday afternoon after putting in a good three-hour stint in a central London Pret (my favourite coffee place having shut down), and when I finally – finally – saved the file I thought that fireworks would go off and everybody around me would break into a spontaneous dance, just like they do in those adverts made by agencies who have run out of ideas. I hate advertising in general, but advertisements where people suddenly start dancing because they cannot quite believe how great this washing powder/chewing gun/interest rate on a loan is really get my goat. Anyway, the good inhabitants of Pret wisely continued their near-silent munching, unimpressed with my tappings.
So I managed to get all the markings into the piece, and since then have been tidying, deleting double bars that I no longer need, getting rid of the scaffolding of the piano score, excising the virtual Post-it notes all over the place that probably meant something to me in 2021 but which now seem like fragments of some ancient language. Percussion has been added, articulations tweaked, clarifications inserted, and it is almost time now for the piece to be printed out, at which point (a) my symphony will actually physically exist, and (b) I can get to work with a red pen and put rings around all those errors that somehow always get missed on a screen but are obvious on paper.
But is it any good? Well, thanks to the efforts of some really fantastic musicians earlier in the week I can answer that question with a resounding and confident “Maybe.” As I wrote last week, Jeremy Summerly directed a fabulous first performance of the Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis on C on Sunday 21st, and on the following day I made the trek into town to hear David Goode give a thrilling account of An Exaltation Of Skylarks. On both occasions I listened to pieces I had written a couple of years ago and had largely forgotten as if I was hearing them for the first time, and on both occasions I thought “Hey, that’s not bad. Maybe I can actually do this thing.”
I have had my music murdered in cold blood so many times – at one point so badly that I seriously thought about giving up the whole thing – that hearing it treated with respect and by outstanding and intelligent directors, players and singers is always something of a revelation, a wonderful moment when it all comes to life and is better than I could ever have imagined it being. In those moments I really do find confidence in what I do, hear what I have written from the outside and apply my critical ear to it as I would any piece and sometimes think that it is successful. So is the symphony any good? Maybe.
Artie Mixx said:
Will you be providing a link to a recording of your great, or maybe great, symphony so that your virtual neighborhood of followers can make their own conclusions as to the relative greatness of your work?
By the way, this American commenter returned yesterday from two weeks in London where I also spent some time in several Prets. Which location let you sit there for three hours? Maybe we were there at the same time.
I could probably put together some kind of computer simulation of what it sounds like, but I’d much prefer to have a recording of a genuine performance, even if that presents many hurdles. If it happens I’ll be sure to let people know, and there is some interest in a first performance in 2024, so we shall see. I was in the Pret near Trafalgar Square, just at the bottom of St. Martin’s Lane, very bustly but with quiet corners (and plentiful power sockets!). Best wishes, Nick.