As readers of my previous post might surmise, I’m in the midst of an immersement in the world of Robert Schumann, for reasons I may have a chance to explain at some point in the future. And, as readers of a post of mine from a month ago know, I’ve been taking an unusual (for me) vacation from composing. Reading John Daverio’s excellent biography, I encountered (or perhaps re-encountered, since it sounded so familiar) Schumann’s practice in the 1830s of writing numerous short piano pieces, then organizing selections of them into the sets that would become Papillons, Carnaval, etc.
And I thought, “Of course!” — that’s the solution to a longstanding problem I’ve had: I’ve often felt unsatisfied with my piano writing, and the solution was right in front of me.
Now I’ve started composing piano miniatures, taking, at most, 2-3 days to write each one. I’ll keep doing it until I decide to stop, then I’ll take stock of my collection, winnow out the weaker ones, and decide what the remainder are trying to tell me. Are they etudes? Bagatelles? Preludes? Or something else I can’t foresee?
Having written the first few, I’m finding I like my piano writing more than I realized. I’m also getting excellent practice in speed-composing, conceiving the beginning, middle, ending all in a matter of minutes, then fleshing out the details in a few hours. It’s a great way for me to compose – not all the time, but in counterpoint to longer gestations.
It’s amazing to me how many times I have to relearn this lesson. I seem to need frequent reminders of the very things I frequently remind others about.