A December Surprise
Having spent several days sleeping longer than I’ve ever slept before and enjoying some creative rest, I am thankfully feeling more like myself again. I am amazed to say that as of December 1st, after a frantic autumn, there is a living breathing draft of the violin concerto in existence.
Did I just type that? I need to absorb that concept for a few more seconds………. (Deep breathing)…….
Honestly, the first thing I wanted to do this month was nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. In October, during a bit of karate misadventure, I managed to detach some rib muscles and for the last week of writing I got extremely sick due to the pain medication decimating my immune system. Thank God Cora was there to encourage me and help with the score markings. What can I say, the writing Gods were setting out a challenge from above! I was almost completely unable to sleep or rest, and all my waking hours were spent battling with frustration and discomfort as my best friends. I think, on many levels, I actually struggle to remember a lot of the last 2 months, because I was emotionally overloaded, afraid I would quit because of the severe bouts of pain and tiredness.
How Does It Feel?
I feel satisfied. For the first time since I started this journey with Cora, an end is truly in sight. The draft is nice and strong, and after a few weeks away from it, the changes I dream of adding will be a lot clearer.
Yes, I did incorporate the chord progressions I mentioned in the last post – the ones from my dream! It was too insane a creative intervention to ignore! In the end, I was really surprised how the unusual concept brought a whole new creative dimension to the variations in mov. I and gave me a nice original stream of thought and evolution of the thematic material.
Of course there are many many things that I had to resist fixing, improving, or altering, so as to stay focused. Completing an actual finished draft from beginning to end had to remain the primary goal. I kept reminding myself that Beethoven completed his masterful violin concerto in 4 weeks, so I could surely manage to pull together the missing pieces before my self imposed deadline! It was worth it in the end.
How has it Evolved?
I’ve done my best to incorporate my ideas and many of Cora’s exquisite improvisations in the concerto. The three-movement form of the piece became clearer as the orchestrations, twists and turns started to fall into place. It has a strong shape right now. The movements are provisionally titled:
I – Theme and Variations
II – Meditation on a Chant
III – The Dance of the Dervish
I thought the titles best captured what the music is trying to say. At least it’s the best way I can express it for now……
There is a constant pattern of musical subjects appearing and then decomposing in an almost meditative fashion. But underneath the surface, a musical current is irrevocably pulling the concerto along towards an approaching destination. This battle between the fragmentation of the ideas and the underlying journey of the music creates a nice creative tension.
I’ve touched on aleatoric concepts in the draft and for now, they are notated, but there is a chance that I might let sections fall into a stronger aleatoric freedom before I am finished. Lutoslawski was a strong influence here, but I have to somehow figure out a way of mixing chance and order, as both coexist in the piece.
I’ve done a lot of restructuring. In Mov.2, I did more than I expected, while mov. 1 got an almost complete rewrite, working off the same material I originally planned for it. Then there is mov.3 which is massively expanded and the thematic material was let breathe and dance around, like a butterfly in a field.
I’ve loved every minute of the collaborations that have gotten us – the composer and the soloist – to this point. Visiting to try out new ideas with such a talented soloist is a composers dream. The last time I visited, I brought the laptop, and let Cora hear the embryonic orchestrations and structure that I was developing. We had such fun improvising around the written material. Experiencing her interpret complicated moments of a large scale concerto and making them sound like Monday morning warm-up exercises is nothing short of breathtaking.
As far as I can see, to advance this draft, I have a few important remaining tasks ahead of me. For a start, I know there are instances where I’ve wanted to convey more with the orchestrations than I am currently saying, so I think that will be the focus for my first set of alterations. I feel I can evolve the texture in the overall context of the concerto now that it is all drafted in front of me. The ideas are clear in my head, so this should be a fun creative expansion of the sound.
After that, I want to have another look at the structure – the form. Its something I’ve discussed ad nauseam with Cora, Ladislav and just about anyone polite enough to listen. There is a certain sense of clarity about the form now that it’s typed up. I want to re-consider the rate of progression through the material and even to examine the order of some of the variations in mov. 1.
And last but not least, I want to revisit the solo violin line. I intend to sculpt it more. I think that is the best description. It finally has the contour that I was after, but there is more to draw out of the line. I have to sit down and organically pull the improvisational concepts into line with the more organized material. I think doing this will bring a strong clarity to the solo violin and help it grow in authority. I’m trying to find a better balance maybe, between the written, improvisational and aleatoric characteristics of the music.
In another week or two, lets see what a pair of fresh eyes brings to the process…….