I used to think that I was the type of composer to work on my music until I thought it was complete, publish it, and move on the next endeavor. I have had that attitude for the majority of my writing career. However, over the past year, I have taken up two of my older pieces—Hypnosis and Glass Window—in order to revise them and give them a second chance at life, so to speak.
My latest revision is Glass Window. I’ve been somewhat attached to this piece since it was the first orchestral piece I have ever had performed, and I simply felt that it had the most potential compared to my other orchestral works so far (which isn’t very many, I admit). However, after hearing the recording of its debut, I realized that it needed some work. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite know how to fix it then.
After having it performed last spring, I stepped back from the piece as I worked on other projects throughout the fall. The moment I decided to revisit it was during my orchestration class in the spring, where I learned enough to be able to pinpoint its problems and apply resolutions to its issues. Some of the major problems that I focused on were clearing out the “muddiness” of certain passages. For example, a simple resolution for the buried first violin line during the intro was to double it an octave higher. Other issues weren’t so clear. The second violin line, also in the introduction, struggled to have a balanced bowing that also maintained the phrasing. I resolved this by borrowing and modifying a technique used in piano music: I provided phrasing lines that were dashed instead of solid, and I indicated to the performers what they meant. In rehearsal “C,” I altered the rhythms of the harmonic lines in such a way that they would compliment each other and maintain the original ebb and flow of the passage but not fight with and hinder one another.
Not every piece is worth the time revising much later on, in my opinion, even if it isn’t up to par, and even if you, as a composer, now know how to fix it. Quite simply, some pieces are a reflection of the stage you were in as a writer. For instance, my older pieces, written when I first tried my hand at composing, lacked form and development, simply because I didn’t know any better. On the other hand, with a piece such as Glass Window, I knew, and can recall, the vision that I had for that work. The ability to recall your artistic vision clearly is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to revise a piece. Although I didn’t know how to fix it then, altering it now wasn’t much of a problem–the piece vividly resembles my original intentions, and it is recognizable to the previous edition. I would not recommend revising a piece if you see that touching it in any way would make it into a completely different, unrecognizable character. If you like an aspect of it, and want to do something different with it, why not borrow those ideas and create something new? They were your ideas in the first place, and I’ve never heard of anyone suing themselves for copyright issues.
Now that I am satisfied with my revision, it’s time to move on to new things, although getting this piece performed within the next year (or anytime, actually) would be nice. I don’t think I’ll be resuscitating any more old creations for a while now–I’ve got new terrain to explore.
Go to the “My Music” page in order to hear and see the revised excerpts of Glass Window.