So, the initial LSO Panufnik Scheme meeting was back in February and, 3 months later, I am still yet to write that all important first bar. OK, I had a wind band piece to complete, far too much teaching, a PhD proposal to submit, a holiday to America…well, perhaps the last example shouldn’t really count – but you get the idea! However, just because I haven’t put that first elusive note on the manuscript paper yet doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working on my piece in other ways.
I love the whole planning process of composition. For example, the title of my PhD is ‘Tracing the Compositional Journey: Exploring the Process of Composition in Diverse Musical Contexts’. This means (funding permitting of course!) that I am about to spend three years looking at my compositional working methods and comparing these with the methods of other composers. Talking to some of the other composers on the scheme about how they approach their work has been very interesting and enlightening. And so, while I haven’t actually started what some people may define as the actual process of composition, I feel I have made a lot of progress with my piece.
As soon as I know that I have a new piece to write, I almost straight away start jotting down ideas in a notebook. Very gradually, sometimes over several months, (and usually a couple of other pieces later!) the work starts to take shape and I can begin to draw out structural ideas, fragments of musical material which I usually notate in diagrams or in words, and ideas for instrumentation. I nearly always have a title in mind before I begin writing. I also write a lot about my ideas behind the piece, which is always useful later on when it comes to compiling a programme note.
The LSO Panufnik Scheme has therefore been totally ideal for my methods of working. We were given the initial brief months ago and so I’ve had plenty of time to spend on this important first stage. Alongside this, I’ve been going to as many LSO rehearsals and concerts as possible – including a very interesting rehearsal spent sitting in the trombone section! I’m pleased to say that I am now nearly ready to start writing…well at least making preliminary sketches. And luckily, once I do start writing, the work often progresses quite quickly. Unless of course there’s an unforeseen crisis, for example misplacing the one pencil I can work with! More updates to follow…