Thursday, October 16, 2008

Composing Day

The iron was hot, so I struck. In spite of being 80% ready to send out 3 more resumes, I spent most of today working on musical compositions that have been warming on the back-burner of my brain for years and years. They wanted out and now was their chance.

Two of the pieces have been mentioned retroactively in Tuesday's list of my chorale-based works. It's wonderful how you can revise history through the miracle of Blogger and its "Edit Posts" feature. I ransacked some old notebooks and found a couple of musical sketches - "improvised" hymn intros that I scribbled down maybe 10 years ago. Neither of them was a complete setting of a hymn tune; but they seemed well started, so I finished them.

Then I tackled a project I have been putting off and off and off. A friend of mine in California has been needling me to write a choral extravaganza on the hymn "Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands." We're talking a setting of all seven (7) stanzas of Luther's resurrection hymn. Until today all I had done was brainstorm (decide which section of the choir would have the melody and in what key) and write a prelude, which I can't seem to find at the moment. It's just as well; I was never quite happy with the prelude. The way things are going now, the piece may not need one. Since lunchtime I have written the first two-and-a-half stanzas' worth of this whatever-it-is (motet? chorale fantasia?). And God Saw That It Was Good.

In fact, the first stanza appeared in my mind quite suddenly, complete and clear in every detail, including the dynamics, which are often the last thing I grudgingly add to a score. It's very exciting when that happens. I felt I was discovering something, rather than inventing it. And it touched me and surprised me. It unfolds quite differently from how I would have planned or expected it to go. And to think I've been planning myself to the point of paralysis on this piece! Sometimes, it seems, "relax and let go" is a key part of the process.

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