Getting Back on Track — Writing Update

February defied my plans.  February demolished my plans, actually, with life’s demands and twists.  So, with the best of intentions, I had planned to finish four chapters of novel 3’s first draft in February, and as of today, I’ve finished only one and half of another.    Not much to be done about February now except press on the best I can into March.

The problem is, I feel stuck on the same 9 pages.  Interruptions have wrenched me away from them, and when I return, I start again on the first page to get back into the chapter and my thinking.  Each time, I add more to those pages and edit, but then I’m pulled away again.  Crazy. 

March looks like it may be a quieter month with fewer interruptions and unexpected demands on my time.  This morning, as I once again went over my notes, got some ideas and wrote more notes, then went over those 9 pages, I realized that I needed to have a run-up.  Like with the long jump.  The jumper runs, gaining speed, before actually taking off on the jump.  My run-up, I think, is to read the first 8 chapters to re-enter Evan’s mind and the situation he’s in.  I feel too disconnected to it right now to trust much of anything that I write.  So, Monday morning, I’ll read, write notes, immerse myself in Evan’s mind and world again, and imagine what comes next in his life.

On the other hand, my research this past week was successful (and enjoyable).  Thinking ahead to Evan rehearsing the Shostakovich 8th Symphony, I wanted to learn if there was anything about this composer’s musical language that I could have Evan focus on, and contrast to what is going on in his life off the podium.  During the Minnesota Orchestra rehearsal last Tuesday morning, I listened to conductor Mischa Santora work, noting his specific requests to the musicians and what issues they worked on.  It sparked ideas for me, which was what I’d hoped would happen.  To top it off, however, during the MPR broadcast of the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert last night, the host, Brian Newhouse, asked Mr. Santora what in particular about Shostakovich’s music challenged conductors.  How did he know I wanted to know, too?  It’s a good question.  Mr. Santora talked about the dearth of instructions from the composer in the score, i.e. indications for tempi, dynamics, etc.  Interesting.  Lack of composer instructions creates ambiguity, leaves the score open to sometimes radical, extremely personal, interpretation.  Mahler wrote instructions all over his scores, leaving nothing to chance or “interpretation.”  But not Shostakovich.  This is definitely food for Evan’s thoughts as he studies the score to the Shostakovich 8th Symphony.  I wonder why Shostakovich kept his instructions to a minimum? 

A post-script: I attended the Minnesota Orchestra concert in Orchestra Hall also.  Jennifer Higdon’s “Blue Cathedral,” which opened the concert, seemed to suspend time, as the solo flute and clarinet lines intertwined, even as the violins seems to push time on.  I loved the percussion Higdon used, adding an ethereal quality, especially at the end.  The Rachmaninoff First Piano Concerto is not a favorite of mine, but 23-year-old Andrew Staupe commanded its melodic and technical challenges con brio.  I loved his performance.  And the orchestra’s accompaniment.  The Shostakovich Fifth Symphony for me, however, was the highlight of this concert.  Mr. Santora and the orchestra nailed it.  I still have it playing in my mind, woke up this morning with it in my mind, and happy to have it, too.  I loved the attention to dynamic contrasts, rhythmical nuances, and that gorgeously biting Scherzo.  I loved this performance.  May it now inspire my writing….          


2 responses to “Getting Back on Track — Writing Update

  1. Re: lack of directions. “To let the conductor fill in and have the freedom to interpret the music” sounds not only trite but overused. There are recordings of Shotakovitch directing his own work, I think. Would the comparison between that and another conductor’s interpretation vary? It it curious, something I’d never considered before.

    Looking at the written word, however, I find it intriguing what an author leaves out. Either completely leaves out, or infers, or mentions so much in passing. Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my all-time favorite authors – has written many novels in a series, following the adventures of a man. The first 2 novels are about his parents. Between the two of them, there is so much mentioned which paints a lovely picture, makes the story more 3-D. Yet, it also left me wanting to know more about it. There were enough teasers that I think she could write another novel, as a prequel. Yet, should she? I fill in the blanks to satisfy myself. She doesn’t really *need* to fill them for me. I don’t know if that really applies to music.

    That’s more like improvisation. My choir did an instrumental number – with everyone who played an instrument participating, even if they didn’t play one in the normal choir (like me). We played “This little light of mine”. Something completely simplistic and short. We played all together a couple times, and then took turns. The variety of music was amazing, since there was no set style choice. We got a jazzy piece, swing, blues, just straight …

  2. I had not heard of any recordings of Dmitri Shostakovich conducting his own compositions, but his son, Maxim, a conductor, has recorded just about everything. Maxim also conducted the world premiere of the 15th Symphony with his father present.

    Unfortunately or fortunately, conductors do “interpret” scores. Osmo Vanska insists on following only what the composer wrote in the score — metronome markings, dynamics, etc. — without doing what he might think is “better.” And conductors must know about performance styles during the time a composition was written in order to understand what’s written in the score by the composer. During the first 50 years of the 20th century, it was common practice for a conductor to interpret a score and “make it his own,” giving rise to personal performances specific to a conductor. And conductors were extremely powerful during that time, while composers not so. They are not so powerful now due to changes in management/administration and musician unions.

    As for writing, I think it’s a writer’s job to exercise the reader’s imagination. So detail can be left out or situations written with only hinted at resolutions, etc. It is like life — no one can ever fill in all the blanks, so to speak.

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