Carl Stone’s recent column about time-efficient rehearsal methodologies brought to mind a conversation I had several months ago about practicing—practicing composing, specifically. I’m not accustomed to thinking of composition as an activity that can be practiced, but what else, really, can you call fifty cantatas a year or over a hundred symphonies? It was suggested to me that I try writing the same piece over and over, for changing instrumentations and at various scales, with the understanding that it won’t, of course, be the same piece. I was skeptical of this idea at first, but after much mulling, I have to concede that it might bear fruit.
One of the bedrock assumptions of “new music” as I’ve come to understand it is that every piece demands a new form, a new sound-world, a new performance practice. Having burned through a number of such new forms, sound-worlds, and performance practices with decidedly mixed results, maybe I should just stick with the ones I really like for awhile. Obviously this will leave me open to criticism, and rightly so; we privilege composers who achieve some ideal balance of personal style and originality because nobody wants to hear the same piece seven or eight times. But how many modern Vivaldis or Ruggleses are out there? It might be rewarding to keep trying until I get it right…and by the time “it” is right, it might be something completely different from what I started out with.