Seasoning the pot

Another week has moved on and Wonderland is fast becoming my second home.

However, after 2 weeks of very careful and considered work, I think I have finally addressed all the new compositional elements that were needed. I was almost there at Assignment 6, so close, yet there were still some areas that were ‘sparse’. Never has one word conjured up so much dread!

Thus, seasoning the pot, adding the right flavours, have been my modus operandi. I’ve proved to myself that not only is listening my best guide to what is right with my composition and what is not, but I have also realised that when I am in the right frame of mind, I can now instinctively ‘hear’ what is missing. This is a skill that I have seen develop as I have gained more confidence with my orchestration and arranging skills. I’ve not had to try to get any of my new lines written; they have all made themselves known and come forward at the right time.

Admittedly, I have not had a full symphony orchestra to ‘play’ with, but nonetheless, this group of chamber orchestral instruments has at times been challenging to engage with, and I am still surprised and proud in equal measure at what I have achieved.

I cannot provide a definitive list of all the changes, additions and deletions as there have been too many; some large, some small. I have addressed all parts of my tutor’s formative feedback, though, that is to say:

* Sparseness has been reduced considerably throughout
* I have doubled more lines at the octave, within the woodwind, brass and string sections to give a richer texture
* I have ensured the high trombone sections have been written in the tenor clef
* The fast, chromatic trumpet section was reassigned to the woodwind, with their original fast off-beat section being placed with just one instrument (the oboe from recollection)
* Parts that previously had repetitive lines or notes have been modified
* I have tried to vary the texture where there was previously long held notes, but I make no apology for adding a couple of long notes here and there!
* I have created very quick contrasts of dynamic in the Falling section (forte to piano every other bar), which works really well. I also sped up the section at ‘S’ where the Queen of Hearts demands ‘Off with their heads!’. This moves from 85bpm straight to 180! I pull it back within 6 bars to 80bpm but it certainly adds to the drama.
* I have added some specific second time only instrumentation at bar 585 in the recapitulation section. I’ve not tried this before and it took some working out to get right, but I now get 3 additional lines playing during the repeat, which is great.

All I know is that I now feel, truly, that I’m there. As an artist, the biggest challenge quite often is knowing when to stop. That time I believe is now. If my assessors feel that I’ve omitted things or there are still sparse areas then so be it, but to me, this feels right. I don’t want to overstay my welcome in Wonderland. It’s a great place to be, don’t get me wrong, but there has to come a time when enough truly is enough.

I am waiting for guidance from my tutor on the total running length. I am now at 20 minutes 39 seconds, which is just over half a minute longer than the original brief. If this is too much, I will have to return to the drawing board and remove something, or speed some areas up to pull the time back in. Let’s hope this is acceptable, though, as everything feels right and I don’t relish having to change anything further.
05.12.16: My tutor has now confirmed to me in an email: ‘that’s fine – I’m sure the assessors will be happy to give you a little leeway.’

My next course of action is back to editing. As more things were added and the odd thing removed, it has understandably moved my layout around. I don’t approach this second round of ‘presentation’ work with much enthusiasm in all honesty but the necessary evil must be dealt with as I realise how important it is for my score to look, as well as sound, as good as it can be.


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