Friday, October 12, 2012

Sorry, it just wasn't good enough

As I noted in one of my other blogs, I've been scanning old sketches with the premise of because I can. I've rooted around in old banana boxes in the attic (we have an attic (which has banana boxes)) to find some old stuff, and about 24 years of sketches survive. Sorry, Slange and Imaginary Dances. Y'all had to go at some point.

Last night I found the sketches to Hyperblue, from more than 21 years ago. I remember having a great idea for the beginning and then getting it wrong. I had not remembered that is was this wrong.

I do remember that Gerry Itzkoff gave me the opening F (because I asked him), Lois Shapiro the G-flat that follows, and Rhonda the B-flat. Later, the sketch is "corrected". This opening is fine, but isn't good enough. It's chief fault is that I didn't settle for it.

I also don't do those stemlets over rests any more, either, because Bruce hated them.

Currently I am scanning Études Book V, just because I was obsessive enough to collect the sketches into a folder named thus, and it will be a testament to, and proof of, my claim that no études got revised. Thus the études were the places to go to be spontaneous and work without a net. As compared to bigger pieces like Hyperblue, where getting it right wasn't the first thing that happened, ever.

It also occurs to me that I collected them because Book V was, uncharacteristically, commissioned, and all ten were written consecutively.

In 1991, I had a big stash of cream-colored manuscript paper that I paid big bucks to get offset prints of (soon after I left off the master with the printer in Princeton and they said they'd do it for 5 cents a page, they called me up and said "how about 11 cents instead?"). That stash ran out by 1995. Now like everything else, I have the paper on the computer and I print up 50 or 100 sheets when I need them. And as it turns out, the color of the manuscript paper is also the color of the paper.

Last night, Persistent Memory sketches got scanned. I remember that piece gave me a lot of trouble, too, and now you, dear reader, can see just how much. Any and all the notes you see below are hereby in the public domain, and you can use them, as I will, for toilet paper or jingles. On some days, I can't tell the difference.

In my standard spiel about Persistent Memory, I say that I wrote the first movement in two and a half weeks in Rome in April 1996, and most of the second movement at Yaddo in two and a half weeks in May 1997. What these sketches remind me of is the week at VCCA in 1997 (soon after seeing Jerry Maguire and just before beginning Martler) I spent trying to get the second movement rolling, only to end up tossing everything. What I'm trying to say is that most of the x'ed out sketches began life below the Mason-Dixon line. And Martler owes its existence to the lameoisity of said sketches.

I also note that at the time I seemed to count the number of beats on each page and then added them to a running tabulation of total beats in the piece, ostensibly to calculate the piece's duration. Nonetheless, my final tallies on the durations of my pieces tended to be off by 15 to 20 percent. (Sesso e Violenza? 18 minutes! No, actually 23. I wish I'd had the extra 5 minutes when I registered the piece with BMI)