When we practice an instrument or compose a new work, we are drawing upon hundreds of years of musical and technical knowledge, and through interfacing with our own unique personalities we transform that knowledge into something novel passed on to future generations; therefore, “my” music is really something like 90% outsourced, with my own contributions comprising only a sliver of the research, experimentation, and notational decisions necessary for “my” piece’s completion.
The received wisdom of classical performance practice is simply one way among many, yet it is through direct exploration of sound (and apprehension of what kinds of sound excites and moves us) that performance practices came to be in the first place. While I have very great respect for those who take similar delight in the exploration of classical technique, I’m fortunate that my own false starts eventually led me back to the elements with which I formed my earliest musical bonds.
I was recently converting some old scores into PDF files for archiving when I came across the first large-scale piece that I haven’t disowned. I hadn’t thought about the piece for some time, and with the intervention of time the distance I’d traversed in about seven years became apparent. I’m always hopping from piece to piece more or less sequentially, and the incremental changes and forgotten battles of the day can often obscure the larger patterns of change.
On the notepad I use to jot down ideas for upcoming NewMusicBox posts, there has been one important but perhaps less-than-riveting subject I have passed up for almost a year now: the difference between rewrites and edits, and the incredible usefulness of making both a part of one’s revising/honing process.
Speaking as someone who enjoys cooking as well as composing, I wanted to take a moment to detail how my efforts in the kitchen help me relate to my efforts in the studio. After spending most of the last year living away from home, I’m thrilled to be home with a working oven and some familiar kitchen utensils. So what can a composer learn from the experience of baking a pie?
I need to generate a lot of ideas without stunting their early growth with too much specificity (and with nary a thought to their feasibility in performance), but I also need to be ruthless and shrewd in dispensing with (and editing) ideas that don’t make the cut even after I’ve allowed them their best shot.