Although I normally like to have three pieces to work on at any given moment, right now I just have two. One is for soprano sax, bassoon and electronics called Sparkling in the Dark. I’m coming down the home stretch, with maybe 10-20 percent of the work on it left to do and a mid-August deadline. More about that later.
The other piece is one I’ve just begun, also with a mid-August deadline. It’s for six violins.
These two pieces present very different compositional challenges. Whenever one works with electronics, one is faced with the question of what not to do, since the possibilities are endless. By contrast, working with a single instrument, albeit by the half-dozen, implies a very narrow color palette.
Both challenges spur me, but I have to admit I enjoy the challenge of working with limited timbres more. In fact, I’ve spent the past four weeks on just four measures of the six-violin piece, trying out all different combinations, each one bringing me a shade closer to the texture I’m imagining. The violin, in the hands of a capable player, has an enormous range of expression. Multiply by six, and the possibilities are enough to make you lose your way.
I’ll put these four measures behind me at some point. I have a pretty clear idea of where the piece wants to go. Once it starts going there, maybe a title will occur – I hate slapping those on at the very end.