Composer’s Log: Sept. 18, 2017

It’s been a couple weeks since my last update.  I skipped the weekly Composer’s Log on Sept. 11 partly because of an ear infection that was playing havoc with my hearing and partly because of an especially hectic start to the semester.  This week, I’ve been fine-tuning the music that I drafted over the last few weeks.  I’ve learned that if I have an inkling that something isn’t quite right, the feeling is only going to get worse. It may take a few days or weeks before I know how to fix the issue, and I may go through multiple versions gradually getting more right (or getting wrong in different ways until I hone in on exactly how a gesture or passage should go).

Having a little time away has helped me gain some perspective on fixing some rough spots from Pierre’s death through Marie’s aria, “I take my life in measurements.” Thankfully, the revisions I have been making are all fairly small in nature, rather than major rewrites—aside from one instance in which I seem to have lost some work, which I then needed to recreate.  (Back up, back up, back up!)

When I’m composing, I will sometimes add text notes to myself to indicate what should happen at a certain point.  Other times, I will put in a musical placeholder – material that I know is not exactly right but that fills a lot of the same functions.  It might be something borrowed from another place in the piece that I want to reference more subtly, or it might be an ostinato that will later be shaped into something more dynamic, or possibly something skeletal that I will flesh out eventually.

In the section I was working on this week, there were a number of these musical placeholders that I went back to fix this week.  I also thinned out some accompaniments, beefed up some others, made small tweaks to rhythms, and sculpted some of the vocal lines a bit more.  These changes are all fairly subtle, so posting before and after pictures at this point probably wouldn’t reveal much.  With each area that gets refined, I have a more clear idea of the work’s musical world. Once I have a draft of the whole opera and can hear everything in context, I’ll make further revisions and may choose one or more examples to show how an idea changes throughout the whole process.

In addition to fiddling with this sequence, I’ve also been in touch with Hartford Opera Theater about the work, and we should be announcing performance details soon!