Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Endless Études

To the left is the Pulcinella notebook. Note the rapidity of the creation: dear Monsieur Stravinsky writing in ink, although later some revisions in red ink and blue crayon. Given my fetishistic attraction to such objects, I think how sad it will be for my biographers that I have left so few scribblings behind. 

Before I was old enough to buy cigarettes at the 7-Eleven, I worked in pencil, sometimes on small sheets (9x12), often on much larger. Those large sheets of unusually-sized paper, spread over the piano and the floor nearby, always made me feel I was creating something special, a large canvas on which I could spill my soul. Those still remain, tucked inside a filing cabinet in our storage unit along with the other detritus of a life well-lived: corsets, costumes, flyers, religious paraphernalia, conspiracy theories. But in the last decades, working primarily on the computer, there is no history.  It is gone, bits erased and then erased again.

However, there are a few threads that these aforementioned biographers can follow, as my large works steal from my small. In fallow times, when I am not obsessed with the latest objects of textual affection, I will write my ideas in small piano works, études for the composer rather than the performer. And, when I do write the next opera, I liberally mine those little pieces for material. You know it's been proven again and again that all music fits with all dance or all film or all text, but the resultant effect is of course very different depending on the particular combination. 

Now that I say what I said, I realize that they often are études for the performer as well, and usually too difficult for me to play except in approximation. For example, the set I wrote in Florence in 2019 is scattered through She Who Is Alive, but in January at the Center for New Music, I am playing them, in approximation.  

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