A Not-So-Blank Slate


One good rule of thumb about composing is, if you’re having trouble making a part “fit” it usually means that it isn’t the right part to begin with. Once you (finally) arrive at that conclusion there are a few options, including further modifying what you’ve written or starting again from scratch. The idea of starting again raises interesting questions (N.B. it does not “beg” the question) about just how rasa the tabula can be.

You can’t “un-hear” what you wrote/played before, so anything new that you come up with is in one sense a variation, even if the parts have nothing in common. At the same time, you can become so saturated with the original part that it just fades into the background, which can free-up some creative space.

Time away from the music usually works best, even if it’s just a fresh start the following morning (and a new set of strings).

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3 Responses to A Not-So-Blank Slate

  1. Kenneth Goodenough says:

    Slightly tangential, but do you think there is such a thing as having too much time away from a composition?


    • Sean says:

      I can only speak for myself but there have been times when I have felt that I had moved on stylistically to something else, and I couldn’t quite return to the context or frame of mind I had when I started a particular piece. Usually this is because there wasn’t a lot of momentum to finish the piece to begin with, but there was too much just to let it go. At that point, I had to decide whether to adapt what I had for the newer direction or to just shelve it.

      It doesn’t happen very often, but I remember this being an issue when finishing Muttersprache. So, the risk isn’t really in losing interest in a piece for its own sake over time, as much as it is if things go on for too long, that interest might get supplanted by something else.


      • Kenneth Goodenough says:

        Thanks, Sean. I asked mainly since I’m revisiting material from about two years back at the moment, and I’m having the same problem(s) you had, it seems.


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