The Poulenc model


I worked on the Poulenc piece, as model, just putting the score in front of me and freely composing lines and chords that – albeit in transposition – resemble some of his material. No one could work out the connection I have made, however, because it’s not systematically done. And the rhythm becomes different, because I push the melancholy beat of the Poulenc into the background. In the foreground, in place of what he has, I set unstable and fragmentary figures, with plenty of “air” in between them. That’s what came into my mind, and I went with it. Working on texture and tessitura, by the way, is something I take time for, I don’t just leave it to chance.

How nice that one can work at a desk with paper and pen and not have to rely on a computer. That must be a bit of a prison. I don’t say that in a spirit of smugness. On the contrary, I am keenly aware that the results of new ways of working can be startlingly good. And not just aware, as, like a shoplifter, I keep my eye open, and my jeans very baggy……………..I just mention the desk thing, because it’s such an exqusite pleasure to write music from one’s head.

This was all done quite quickly and I decided to marry this new sketch with the one I already had from the other day – the one which had strayed “too far” from the model. So now I have a slow movement that has music in close relation to a model and music with a distant connection to it – that distance becoming so great as not to be apprehended, perhaps.

Incidentally, composers vastly overestimate what listners can follow. Of the millions who listen to the Firebird, what proportion follows that simple four note figure Stravinsky uses as theme generator? Yet he blares it out as clearly as possible at the end. And presents it at the beginning, and throughout the piece.

Or come to that, how many people listening to West Side Story, know that a single sharpened fourth works still more transparently as theme generator? That is a master stroke, as the entire mood of the piece is captured there, in miniature.

Yes, in miniature. And I’ve said that a scale is not adequately described as a series of notes, but is instead a spiritual thing, though I think I will be saying that until I am dead………….. Teachers will go on teaching scales as if they are abstract constellations of notes. Or the nuts and bolts of tonality. There is a lot more to it than that.

Back to the idea of a model……………Of course I always think of Picasso, as he is my “bible”. It is adorable how he does a series of representations that become steadily more obscure.

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