These words are currently written in large letters on a piece of paper blue tacked to the wall next to my desk. Having just read Ed’s recent post, I must say that I sympathise a great deal both with his ‘list of dissatisfactions’ relating to previous compositions and his desire to ‘fill the space’ in an orchestral piece, or indeed any other piece, to the correct degree.
Integral to the preliminary process of composition outlined in my first post is always an analysis of what I am unhappy or uneasy about in my recent works. These issues are constantly at the back of my mind during the planning process, so by the start of each new piece I find myself writing pages in my notebooks about ‘things to achieve’, ‘things to avoid’, ‘ideas to experiment with’ and so on. A rather fun way to begin work on the first day of any new piece is to stick all these pages to the walls of the shed where I write…fifteen minutes later I am surrounded by sheets of paper and feel I have at least achieved something with my day.
However, I am also very conscious of the fact that I have been guilty in the past of trying to pack far too much into a piece of music – not only in terms of orchestration and use of instruments, but also regarding musical idea. Therefore, this first week of writing has been about trying to focus my ideas to form the basis for what I hope will be a coherent and concise piece of music. And the very mention of the word ‘concise’ leads me back to the inescapable fact that this piece is ONLY THREE MINUTES LONG. I write that in capitals just to remind myself. It shouldn’t really be a problem by now as I’ve been thinking about the piece for months and the very starting point was the issue of its brevity. There are also many successful very short orchestral pieces; Oliver Knussen’s Flourish with Fireworks being one I particularly admire.
But, I have to keep on reminding myself – hence the words at the beginning of this blog post, ‘stop and think’. Hopefully if I do this, I will save myself a lot of hassle – and a great deal of manuscript paper!