This is an odd feeling: I put the “Pieces for Bassoon” in the mail this afternoon, heading to its two competitions, one in Illinois and the other in Massachusetts. Now I have no composition facing me. It’s that feeling of twiddling my thumbs that I have always found very uncomfortable.
It’s not that I want to be staring at another deadline, and I don’t have another piece ramped up in my head demanding to be written. It’s just that I’ve been relatively productive, nay, even successful, the past two weeks, and I’m feeling good about myself as a composer. Shouldn’t I then take advantage of this sudden burst of self-esteem and keep going?
The next thing on my list is a children’s choir competition in Italy, and I think I’m going to give that one a pass. I don’t really know anything about children’s voices, and I don’t know the quality they’re looking for. (Remind me to blog about dreaming a text for it.)
I think I will either dive back into the 24 Hour Challenge or go back to sketching ideas for the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra. It is not my intention to write that piece until this summer, but it won’t hurt to generate a lot of ideas.
And this last work has taught me that generating a lot of ideas is a very good idea indeed. Yes, I already knew that, but the “Dialog” movement brought it home to me in a nostalgic way. The “Heartfelt” theme, the lovely little bit after the bassoon pitches its fit, is a very old snatch of melody indeed.
After I wrote A Christmas Carol in 1980 (1981?), it was suggested that I write another holiday piece that we could do in repertory with CC, in case we ever got to the point that we were standing backstage whispering, “Die, you little cripple, die!” Not that we ever did that.
I decided it might be interesting to do an evening of short pieces. I don’t remember any of what we selected other than Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl,” which is one of the most effectively maudlin stories ever written. I can scarcely type the words without tearing up. Damn the man.
Anyway, I don’t think I got more than a couple of melodies sketched out even for that one piece, and this “Heartfelt” theme was one of them. It was called “In My Arms,” and it was going to be sung by the Match Girl’s grandmother in the miserable child’s final vision of heaven as she freezes to death. (I recently read something online that indicated the writer thought the story ended happily. Hello??)
Go back and listen to that section. “In my arms…” were the first words, and I don’t think I ever wrote anything solid other than that. But the cognoscenti will recognize that I would have, if I had finished it, gone far beyond even “The Cratchits’ Prayer” in levels of rising gorge.
The moral of my story? Never throw anything away. If it doesn’t fit your current piece, you might, thirty years later, find a spot for it.