While rummaging through my closet last week I was shocked to discover the scores for some of my first pieces—not my very first efforts exactly, but these were probably the first pieces that someone else actually performed, dating from the beginning of my undergrad.
These pieces come from one of the strangest periods in my life, compositionally speaking; they’re from a time just after I figured out how to write something that wasn’t an utter joke to my classmate/performers, but just before I was capable of creating something I might want to make available for future performances.
Looking through some of these older works, I began to contemplate the invisible line that separates my first “mature” composition (heavy quotes, there) from my so-called juvenilia. It’s not like I gave the matter terribly serious thought back when I was in school, but surely there is some reason why I chose to draw the line in such a way and not any other. And since this decision was made long after the fact, could it also say something about where I then was headed, or wanted to be heading?
While it’s natural on some level to perhaps edit the past to be more in line with the present, I don’t believe this kind of thinking has played very much of a role in my decision to keep some works in circulation and not others. For me, it simply became evident that there was a growing quality gap between my oldest works and my more recent efforts, and after a while I just didn’t feel particularly proud of sending certain pieces out. I occasionally pop out a piece now that I’m not too psyched about, but to me it feels like the kind of mistake that I would make, whereas sometimes those older works feel like the kind of mistakes I don’t even want anything to do with!
As an advocate for Life Learning, I continue to wonder whether I will face a similar crisis around the year 2020 or so with the music I’m writing now. With composing the gap between conception and execution can be so large that sometimes I can’t help but feel slightly “beyond” my newest work by the time I actually get to hear it performed.