Stuttering progress

I haven’t spent much time with Ansel Adams today – been working on the programme for Fourth Plinth (it’s on Thursday! Come along! It’s free and it’ll be fun!) which has been fun but time-consuming, so I got back to Ansel tonight when I finally got home.

I managed to get the piece to 5’30” yesterday and am really hoping to push on to the 6-minute mark tomorrow. It’s kind of driving me nuts, actually – I can FEEL where it needs to go, but I’m having dreadful trouble identifying the right notes to take it there. It’s been moving on a bit better since I started working in full orchestration – I suspect because I need this section to be much more rhythmically complex overall than the first section, and the layering would have been hell to try to work out in short score – but it’s really limping. I keep going back and improving the orchestration and then I can manage to squeeze out another few seconds, but it staggers forward and is unconvincing and then I delete and it slumps back again. I feel that if I can just get this section to 6 minutes then everything will come good in the last section, and I don’t need to make the last section any more than 2 minutes long to fulfil the duration requirements (although a little longer would be nice and another 3 minutes would be more golden-sectiony than 2)

I’m still having trouble getting my head around the ensemble though. Flutes? fine. Clarinet? fine. Voice? fine. Harp? fine. Strings? fine. Everything else? SO not interested. I really don’t want the piano or the saxes or the acoustic guitar and I’m having a devil of a time trying to dream up things for them to do that are meaningful, won’t disrupt the soundworld I’m trying to create and won’t be mere token notes because I can’t not use those instruments. It’s not the instruments themselves I have anything against, it’s a balance issue – the saxes feel like they’ll be too harsh against the other winds, the acoustic guitar I’m concerned will be smothered, the piano’s not a real piano and I have no idea what the sounds are like on it so I don’t know what I’m working with. I’m actually feeling pretty ambivalent about the drumkit, which surprises me. I think I’ll just stick to brushes for that though, so that should reflect the shimmery/clouds of sound look I’m going for in sections 1 and 3 and I think it’ll just stay quiet in the middle section.

So yes, it’s still the middle section that I’m not convinced by, but I feel I just need to limp through it and get to the third section and I’ll be able to make it stronger with the orchestration. Still feel it’s rhythmically limp though, but I’m not seeing how I can improve that at the moment with the instruments I have – each section is too broken to give convincing mud in the rhythm department – if I do a triplet in a sax against, say 2 quavers in the flute or clarinet, they’ll both stick out – it’s not evenly balanced. Maybe I need to capture a saxophonist and see what kind of sounds they actually make, as opposed to the sounds I THINK they’ll make. Should probably listen to some John Harle too or other big-name classical sax players.


In cheerier news, I now have all four pianists lined up for my Rude Health concert. Just need to… um… write the piece and get it to them by the end of the weekend. Um. Also, rehearsals for Lines of Sight have been going really well (you should come!) – to the extent that when I asked my violist and cellist if they’d like another run-through tomorrow, they proclaimed themselves confident enough to not need it, which is definitely a hurrah moment. It was sounding really good in the space in yesterday’s whole-event rehearsal and I’m quite excited to see how it turns out on the night.

OK. To bed! Big day tomorrow finalising the Fourth Plinth programme and sending it for approval, hopefully getting my project supervisor’s approval for the Twombly Project proposal (due on Thursday) and powering ahead to a 6-minute landmark in Ansel Adams. Still need to find a title for that too!

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