Last week, I reported on doing time in Revision City, reworking passages from various recently premiered works. Today, I’d like to share what kinds of things typically catch my ear when I’m down to the last few tweaks.
In the first movement from Sonata: Motion for flute and piano, there is a passage that didn’t quite accomplish what I had wanted. If you click here, you can listen to the premiere performance while I describe the problem and my solution. The movement is just under five minutes long.
At 1:44, a melody turns up in the flute, accompanied by a rollicking piano part. Thirty seconds later, the melody repeats a half-step lower over a dissonant pedal. I had wanted this recurrence to begin at a lower level of intensity than its predecessor, but then build up, over the course of about 20 seconds, to an exuberant high, serving as a culmination point in the movement.
To my ear, all of this happens, but I feel like the recurrence lies too low for too long before climbing — it needed a bit more life. So, in the revision, I’ve exaggerated the ornamentation in the line — made it more vocal, in effect — which not only brings some much-needed energy, it also helps distract attention from where the line is headed. That way, when we arrive, the result is both more surprising and more satisfying.
(What I’m trying to describe is only partly a matter of pitch level — obviously, if I just wanted the melody to go higher sooner, the solution would have been easy. What I needed was more energy sooner.)
But you’ll just have to imagine the results for the time being — plans are underway to make a recording, and recordings can take months to years to release.
In any case, this is a good example of a minor revision. The third movement didn’t emerge from my post-premiere chisel nearly so unscathed.