Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hidden tracks

I recently revisited a stack of scores made in when I was 16 or 17. One of the most interesting, at least conceptually, was a piece for piano and ensemble, in a just intonation that was (and is) probably unrealizeable by real instruments. Curious to hear the piece with some precision, I entered the score into a notation program, and then rendered it as a sound file with the pitches right (well almost, a better solution is needed for some of the pitch bends, which were rendered as portamenti when the going got rough). Though it has some naive movie-music charm, the piece can best now return to happy obscurity. Nonetheless, it is a bit irritating that the score wasn't ever really finished. The first two sections are complete, but the third is about three-quarters done, and while I'm certain the rest had been pre-composed in some detail, there are no sketches left to indicate what exactly had been planned. The alternatives are to just go in and forge an ending, or to leave it as is, a fragment. Neither is a satisfactory alternative, so unless I'm prepared to channel myself at 16, a return trip to the desk drawer seems in order.

It's been policy around here to get rid of sketches. Part of the idea here is that finished pieces should be granted some independence from the circumstances of their composition. Another is that new technical discoveries are easier to make when you are not too closely following previous paths. Another is that I just don't like extra pieces of paper hanging about. (This may in part be an extreme reaction to one of my teachers who has, apparently, hung onto every bit of manuscript paper he's ever touched). This policy doesn't help much in the present case, but my chief concern has got to be the next piece, always the next piece.

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