Listening to first edits of some recordings I’ve been making, I’ve realized I’m in the fourth stage of my relationship with glissandos. Didn’t notice it happening, but stage four is definitely here.
The first stage was my first fifteen-or-so years. That’s when I experienced glissandos in my everyday existence – on recordings, in performances, singing in the car – without having a name for them, without realizing what they were.
The next stage lasted about seven years. Having learned what glissandos were, I employed them liberally in my music, recognizing in them a way to skirt traditional note arrangements and intonations, to break myself free from cliché.
Then I burned out on them. I had heard (and had written) too many pieces that relied on glissandos and other effects to avoid cliché without really establishing anything substantial enough to replace what I was avoiding. In other words, my glissandos were an effect, not a vocabulary. They had become their own cliché. In my third stage, I used glissandos frugally, only when absolutely necessary – and usually for comic effect. That lasted almost twenty years.
Now I am in my fourth stage. Glissandos are an important part of my vocabulary. Now I’m very meticulous with them. They move in precise ways, with clearly defined departure and arrival points, and carefully calibrated rhythms. They combine and overlap with a specific expressive purpose. Their presence within a composition is always measured out with an ear to serving the overall artistic goals.
That’s where I’ve been for a bit over ten years. Will there be a fifth stage? If so, when will it begin and where will it take me? Can’t imagine yet.
I should probably stick with stage four.