Sunday, May 14, 2006

I've spent the last day proofreading a short viol piece by F. It's been an interesting experience, pursuing another composer's processes - constructing a piece according to another's blueprints.

Apart from developing some theories about accidentals that might bear repeating to some composition students some day, it struck me that there is a great difference between F's processes and my own.

When I 'process' some material (whatever that is - Satie, a pitch row, random numbers), any error will not produce anything very divergent from the overall effect. It has to be a big deal if I want to be exact because usually the level of process that minces the original material translates it to such an extent that it is largely unrecognisable (think of the solo piano opening of the second movement of Lovesongs, where left-over Wagner from the 1st movement becomes something resembling Berg - accidental but beautiful and fortuitous conjunction). F actually wants you to hear the lines, and follow them even though they've been scrunched into semitones and (in 2 voices) have been shuffled like cards.

Why do I use pre-existent material or even processes if I'm that indifferent to accuracy? I'd like to point out that in terms of accuracy, I don't mean that I'm indifferent to errors in the score: 20 notes in a 21:17 tuplet for example, or a botched metric modulation. I'm referring to mistakes that have been made in a transformation process or a number sequence mistakenly reconstituted. There is a margin of error that I'm willing to accept. It's almost an economy of effort. I check over what I've done to some degree, but I feel no compulsion to go over it to the degree that I am with F's piece. I remember finding a big mistake in the 'perfect' durational sequence in my 'opus 1', Supplication for mixed choir. It was in one part (the tenor part) and I only found it while we were preparing it for performance. I went home and tried to fix it but realised that if I did that, the entire framework was weighted in a completely different way (from that point on, the tenor line would be completely different) and would make my coda seem 'wrong'. In the end I concluded that I preferred it with the error in place. The 'sound' of the piece wouldn't be very different if the correct numbers had been used, but the change would alter the detail of the piece to such an extent that it would have to be recomposed. And I didn't want to do that. What would be the point of completely recomposing a piece so that it was 'correct' even though the soundworld remained the same, and would have a different weight (and therefore potentially a different 'feel') to the already composed version? I kept the error. Given that a major inspiration for the piece had been the Liturgie de cristal from Messiaen's Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps, the error is fortuitous. I was always slightly dubious about Messiaen's claims to the 'perfection' of the number 7 in this work, and the 'super-perfection' of the number 8. The error becomes the grit in the oyster, the human failing that makes the piece mine.

I'm not sure quite how I'll justify all of this in my viva but I'm working on it, which is the main thing!

Monday, May 08, 2006

To the sounds of Steve Reich's Drumming, I've completed Version A of Frisch weht der Wind. There are a few formatting issues (just spotted three time signatures slightly out of place) but by and large it is complete. Making a start on Version C tomorrow... on a roll still...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Well, the maneuvering of the time signatures took me less time than I thought and I've actually got through just over half of the score of Version A of Frisch weht der Wind. Passed those pages to F to vet, will also try to get P's opinion on the notation.
So far so good...

Realised that once I type up everything that's almost ready to go: (US4, disiecta membra, Lovesongs, Frisch weht der Wind, La Pastora, and De contemplationis digitis) I've got an hour's worth of music - and that's counting Frish as a 3 minute piano piece (all four versions rack up a total of 12 minutes). Anything on top of this is a bonus!

Been listening obsessively to Mama Cass singing 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' today, and all because it featured in the opening few episodes of Lost. It just got into my head and refused to leave, so I'm flushing it. Aggressively. It's just fantastic!

Monday, May 01, 2006

I've put all of the basic notes of Frisch weht der Wind onto Sibelius now. I'm probably going to redo all of the time signatures (yawn) to ensure that they align correctly (like the anally retentive time-waster that I am) but otherwise it's done. The wonkiness that the constant change of meter produces is really quite attractive. I hope that it's actually possible for a performer to get it really into their head to reproduce it.
I'm making enquiries concerning the possibility of having Version A of Frisch performed on a Discklavier or similar, for the purposes of recording (but also, it would be nice to have an ultra-correct version of the score!).

Once I have my basic 'skeletal' version of the score complete, it's really just a matter of saving it as three different files, and then editing it as appropriate to produce the three different scores. And then that's it.