I’ve finished my fifth quartet.
As of two weeks ago, I had started from scratch on the fourth movement. The compositional distance I had to travel in order to produce that redraft showed me exactly what I needed to do to fix the problem I was having with the original fourth movement – I just needed to insert about a minute of music leading up to the passage that was bothering me. Once that minute was inserted, what followed made perfect sense. So the solution to the problem was much less radical than I had feared.
The complete redraft was tossed, although some ideas from it continue to tickle in the back of my mind, for future use.
Once I was satisfied with the errant passage, though, I discovered a problem with the beginning of the first movement and the end of the last. Both passages are titled Twilight. I realized that they had a little too much emotional presence (despite the fact that they are both sempre ppp), as opposed to having the right atmospheric presence to balance the rest of the composition.
When you are working on a piece that’s over 30 minutes long, the best balance for each moment is often not apparent until the piece is just about finished.
Atmosphere doesn’t come naturally to me. Which is to say I’m perfectly capable of pulling off a piece with plenty of it – atmosphere that is – but it takes a certain amount of conscious effort, as opposed to other things I can do more intuitively. This quartet definitely needed a particular atmospheric frame in order to function properly. Given that need, the contours of the lines in these two passages were a little more intense than ideal. They needed to be simplified so that they would cohere more, as opposed to standing out too much from one another.
And now, a few brush strokes later, Twilight, and the rest of the quartet, is as it should be. Soon it will be off in the mail — premiere in March 2010.