Inspired by Deveryminou's Vegan Chopped submission, and by food blogging in general, I decided to do something I have never done before: to think--and write--a little about the process of making something and actually to show the stages. Think of it as live-tweeting composition, except it's not live and I'm not tweeting.
I'm working through a new piano piece for Kate Campbell. The initial idea was to do a kind of Jerry Lee Lewis thing, though it would be significantly masked. Maybe that was just an excuse to raid PREx for old records. Which I did. And then dropped the concept. Like so:
This was the initial marking of the page. Note values and rhythms mean close to nothing. It was more an idea of moving through a "grip" on the keyboard and activating different registers.
Then the charge became finding a kind of propulsive skeleton to hang things off of, which I did here. The thought was for a kind of impressionistic language and gestural vocabulary, but I wanted it to be well in rhythm. Can't really out-Debussy or -Ravel Debussy or Ravel, so I thought I could bring in a different-than-usual profile for this sort of language.
Pushing that led here. Which follows from the other ideas, I think. It intensifies the idea of giving the material a profile in time. But the 7/8 thing felt a bit contrived, so I started thinking about "normalizing."
Which I did here, to a degree. 6/8 but with anticipations for all of the high notes, which are just the tops of the chords that used to be two-handed in earlier versions but are now arpeggiated in just the right hand, expressed over a few beats horizontally instead of in a single moment vertically. It comes from rolling the chords. If you're going to roll them quickly, low to high, then maybe try "rolling" them slowly and high to low?
And then I started seeing all of the opportunities to connect the left-hand line while introducing a kind of rhythmic antagonism, three against two (but with anticipations, to throw off the three.)
I thought the duple left hand was a bit clunky, though, so the next step was to pull that element out. The result was a kind of invention-sounding thing. Which I liked for a few hours. But then...
I realized that the beats had shifted in that last version. so I moved everything over to make things more intuitively related to the time signature. But the way this was just SO 6/8 started to feel clunky as well. The way out seemed to be returning to that three against two idea, but not dividing it so neatly between the hands. What if they're changing roles?
Which got me here, which is where I am now. I'm sold enough on the idea to write about it as an arrival point, but I could have said that about any number of stages that, in retrospect, I was only passing through.
There's something about this compulsive rewriting, or rather of writing into an idea, that I really like. It happened this way for fall down five times get up six and I remember being strangely proud of having persisted through a million drafts of the first few measures. I also remember that the compulsion seemed to be building potential energy for a very different sort of writing later on in the piece, that the overproduction seemed to crack open a more intuitive composing that didn't require all of that labor and rethinking and second guessing. So maybe I am setting myself up for that. I'll report back.