Thursday, January 31, 2008

Momentary excess

It's an irony of our times that the most excessive compositional activity is no longer the composition of a singular monster of the imagination, a romantic ideal, but something rather more classical, to venture a series, indeed a repertoire, of pieces within a genre. There's no more juice in writing the great (fill in your nationality) symphony or string quartet, but writing 1001 Sonatas or 151 (and counting) Symphonies will still be taken as a sign of serious excess. Neither the single masterwork nor the volume discount masterwork-through-near-repetition necessarily represents a quantitative measure of greater or lesser originality, and in times like these-- in which the first performance is usually the last -- each working model carries the same probability that the composer's labours will ultimately be lost. But there is a distinct stylistic difference, and in that difference I recognize that the idea of writing many pieces rather than trying to writing the one ideal piece allows one to better embrace error as a resource and risk as a virtue.

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