And so it’s over

I’m feeling almost crestfallen. RPM Challenge is over, the album is done (huzzah for all of us!) and while I’ve got a ton of work to push on with, I’m feeling kind of sad. I’ve absolutely loved these weeks of working with my friends, both old, new and somewhere in between. It’s been lovely to write for specific people and try to make something that fits with what I know about them and their art, and ┬ámostly I think I’ve succeeded OK. Several people have said how much they enjoy their pieces, and that’s what really matters.

I know I’ve learnt an incredible lot this month. Just look at all the new things I’ve tried: improvisation, extended techniques (blowing into the flute, multiphonics, flutter-tonguing, finger vibrato on the recorder), I’ve used trills for the first time (I think) ever, pushed the range of dynamics I usually use, used quarter-tones, written for guitar, created a graphic score (that I actually intended to make, as opposed to Carrion Comfort, which was an accidental graphic score), set a poem that rhymes, written for a solo brass instrument – and got up the courage to ask for muting (and very glad I did). I suspect I’ll be experiencing the aftershocks of this project for weeks and possibly months to come.

And I can’t say how much I think it’s done for my brain, to have to work so quickly, come up with ideas and just work with them. Twice I started with ideas I initially thought were rubbish and was either able to salvage them, or discovered that they worked, but not until I got them onto the instrument for which they were intended.

Of course, until now, too, I could count the usable recordings I had of my music (meaning well-performed, well-recorded, and that I have permission to do anything with) on one hand. Now I need both hands and a foot! This means so, SO much to me. It’s one thing to write music, but quite another to have someone bring it to life for you, and let you hear it. The performers have all been amazing, and I hope I get to write for them again in the future.

But enough burbling. I’m sure I’ll write a blog post over at sometime soon about specific lessons learned, but here is for the present, so I should run through today.

Of course the big news today was receiving the last 2 tracks. Jennifer Mackerras’ Triptych for One is in three movements, and she sent me an assortment of takes so I had a lot of fun wading through them and working out which takes to use of which movement. And they came together quite well in Logic too – a bit of crossfading helped the transitions and a little DeNoiser helped with background hiss on the first two movements. This one’s an odd piece. It still takes me by surprise. I think it only revels itself properly after a few listens. Maybe the movements should have been a little longer, perhaps. I might explore that idea in another piece. I love the multiphonics on the treble recorder – they have so much character! Definitely going to have to use those in the piece I’m writing for Jen’s recorder quartet, Pink Noise.

The other piece which went up today was Francis Western-Smith’s Egg the Eleventh. I’m delighted that the whole corrupted fugue thing worked with this one. It could have gone so very wrong, but I like the crunchiness of the harmonies and to me (I don’t know about anyone else) it’s channelling a lot of Satie, especially at the end. Or possibly I’m just thinking that because the style of this piece is a complete throwback to my uni days and the first few piano eggs I wrote, The Four-Egg Omelette. I always loved those pieces – they’re still some of my favourites – and it’s nice to know that I haven’t moved impossibly far away from that style.

I decided on the track order too today, which is mostly based on the order the pieces were completed in, but I switched I Want It To Kill Them and Triptych for One around, so the recorder piece comes directly after the slide-guitar-and-crunchy-tape one, which seems an odd positioning, but it actually seems to work. Once I had the pieces in order, I discovered that the reverb I’d added to Nest and Solitary Fanfare was a little excessive – the rest of the album, while the spaciousness of the recordings varies, sounds like it was recorded in small rooms, while those two tracks seemed to have moved into a concert hall and it just sounded odd. So I dialled it back on both of them & “rehoused” them in a room rather than a hall, albeit one with a bit of space to it. I think this improves those tracks within the set. Hopefully the performers agree…

I still haven’t got to the lever harp piece for Shana, but I will. It’s on my list for this month (although probably later this month as I have the brass quintet and a piece for Carla Rees and her quarter-tone alto flute to complete ASAP). And it’s the only piece I didn’t get to write. I’m glad that I thought to finish off the Pieces of Eight arrangement for her while I was concussed though – it fits well with the other tiny pieces, and it meant that nobody missed out entirely. Every performer got something to play that was made especially for them. Even with the concussion, so I’m feeling rather pleased with myself.

Tomorrow, then, is CD-burning-and-posting time. I guess I don’t really have to, but it’s just going to really symbolise the end of a project that started out on a whim, ended up bigger than Ben Hur and which I think I have to add to my list of most-amazing-musical-experiences-of-my-life-so-far. So it’ll be sent. And then I’ll look at posting the whole thing to BandCamp. It’s going to be a bit of a package – all the album tracks, plus all the scores, plus this diary. I saw that Chrissie Caulfield included her RPM diary in the download and I think it’s a great idea because it gives a real picture of how the work was created, for those who are interested. Hopefully someone will be…

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