CoLab observer

Having been laid low with the flu for the past four days, today I have been merely full of a raging cold, which is a definite improvement, I must say, although still not terribly helpful on the productivity front. Yesterday I managed – finally! after, what? three? four weeks? – to finish adjusting Fear of Falling to add in all the time signatures. I can’t believe how much time I’ve lost to this wretched bug – and when I tried to document it, of course I couldn’t replicate it exactly in either Finale 2010 or 2012. Still, I’ve still been able to reproduce errors and if they can correct those then maybe whatever caused the major problems I was having before will be fixed in the process. Gah!

So today I’ve finally got back to tweaking the orchestration of the piece. Overall, I think I’m happier with it than I’d thought I was. I think it’s got a bit of punch to it and I’m hoping the orchestra will enjoy it. Yes, it’s pretty conservative, and doesn’t really explore any new territory, but for me the new territory in this piece was always going to be the challenge of dealing not just with an orchestra but working out what to do with multiple instruments – the whole double winds thing which I just totally sidestepped when writing Carrion Comfort. There’s definitely more finessing that needs to happen, ranges to be checked, transitions smoothed and so on, but I’m pretty pleased with it. Even the ending’s holding up OK. So it’s not groundbreaking, but it’s still a step forward.

Being poorly, I didn’t really manage to spend much time on it today though – my energy levels have just been insanely low. I did a little work before I left home, nothing on the train (my train-time has been extraordinarily unproductive in recent weeks) then when I got to college there was only half an hour until the gig I wanted to see (improvising early music & jazz which turned out to be Robert & Laura & Ailsha (??sp?)’s project and deeply enjoyable – harpsichord & viols & crumhorns & recorders meet cello & harp & jazz bass!). I spent the afternoon working in the library, then teaing in the cafe, then off to Edward’s (and Francesca’s & Claire’s) improvisation extravaganza in the Mackerras Room, which was really good too – an assortment of improvisations, ranging from conducted group improv (Ed conducting) through smaller group improvisations where the performers asked the audience for words to work to (most notably “sunlight lizard turnip”), improvised poetry which 2 singers and 2 pianists turned into an improvised song as it was being written, a few pages of Cornelius Cardew’s graphic score Treatise,  through to more traditional improvisation (in the sense that some people just got up and played their instruments). Much food for thought there. I really wish I had another week to work on everything though – so much of this week has been wasted being ill! and I’m starting to finally get some real ideas flowing, but it’s back to chaos next week – and even more so than usual as next week are the Runswick Prize recording sessions, with Fear of Falling due in at the end of the week and the New Music Recording sessions the week after. I can’t believe the year’s going so fast! And there’s SO much I still want to write.

In the end I talked myself down from the ledge that was the prospect of the Greenwich International String Quartet Competition. I really, really wanted to put something into it, but there just isn’t the time, and having lost nearly a week to this germ, I’m not in a good position. So when I stepped back and considered that by the time the score for the SQ competition is due next week, I need to have Fear of Falling ready to hand in, the harp piece laid out and probably 3 Cy Twombly pieces complete when I only have half of one that I’m not terribly pleased with done – not to mention the Fourth Plinth written work done and submitted – it seemed like mental suicide and really not that important. On the one hand, I want to go in for as much of that ilk as possible this year, while I’m actually eligible (there’s a bunch of competitions which will accept you without considering your age if you’re a student), but on the other, I’m already writing a string quartet and I didn’t want to turn in a rubbish piece because I’d had to rush it.

I read a fascinating article on the train on the way into college today while I was busily not working on my piece. It’s an article on composer-scheduling by Brandon Nelson, a US composer who I’ve recently started following on Twitter, entitled Time Management and the “Part-Time” Composer. His workload puts mine to shame – working, studying nursing, composing AND he has a family of small children! How he doesn’t explode is beyond me, but it reminded me that I hadn’t been back over the time I have available to study since the Time Management lady did a schedule for me at the beginning of the academic year, so this evening while waiting for my bean bolognaise sauce to cook, I pulled out my coloured pencils and started blocking out things. My class schedule has changed a lot since then – Research Methods, Fourth Plinth and Orchestration – Medium have all finished, Orchestration – Large has only one official class left and the Personal Project seminars have come to an end. Also, I’ve only got about a month left of my lessons with Stephen. I’ve also started my weekly Sight Singing class, booked in to play viol trios once a week and have irregular viol consort sessions to fit in too I think it’s a good thing to be reconsidering my study time at this point. I was working so well over Christmas until this damned Finale bug got in the way, and since term started up again I’ve been really disorganised. Last week’s debacle with the no-sleep night to get the Runswick Prize piece in is something I really don’t want to revisit. I’m not 19 any more! It took me four days to recover! And then I got the flu! So no more of that. I need to be super-organised. I also need to make sure I’m making time for Djelibeybi and a little work on the house/in the garden and I need to get back to exercising and eating properly too, so while staying at college till 7 in the evening does tend to result in more composing, it’s appalling on the dietary front, so I need to go back to leaving earlier most nights and having dinner at home.

And I need to be good about sticking to my schedule too. There’s so much I want to do this year, and the only way I’ll get through it all is if I’m super-disciplined, both in terms of the hours I’m working and the hours I’m resting. Speaking of which, I should have gone to bed 15 minutes ago… G’night!

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