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A Composer Writes - Postscript

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Michael Zev Gordon Michael Zev Gordon | 14:52 UK Time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Illustration of exercise books


Composer Michael Zev Gordon has completed a new piece - Bohortha (Seven Pieces for Orchestra) which will be premiered on 3 October at the Barbican Hall by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Neeme Järvi.Throughout the process, he downloaded his thoughts and feelings in his regular blog postings here. Michael will return to the Radio 3 Blog in the autumn when his new work goes into rehearsal. Here. he reflects on the process of blogging itself.

One more thing has given me cause to think while writing Bohortha for the BBC Symphony Orchestra - and that’s if writing my blog on it actually had its own effect on the piece, or rather on the composing of the piece. I had to come up with something reasonably articulate in the blog! And as I’ve tried to indicate, composition is as much about clarification and selection as free-flow expression. So by regularly putting into words what doesn’t always easily go into words, there was one more layer of focusing, which may well have had its input into my compositional choices - and even my powers of concentration.

I did, it’s true, write most of the blogs immediately following composition, not while I was actually doing it! That would have got just too much in the way. But something flowed on from the blogs. And I think dividing the process into considered small parts  - that blogging made me do - affected the composition too. Despite my moment of blockage, I think it probably speeded things up.

Does that mean I’d do it again? In so public a sphere, perhaps not – or not soon. But it will encourage me greatly to fill more notebooks with something beyond hurried notes to myself. It will push me on towards a more balanced approach between intuition and reason. Balance will always be the goal.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Michael,

    I've just finished my blog too - on my composition Sounding the Deep - commissiond by Hull Philharmonic for the Cultural Olympiad celebrations in the city. http://www.soundingthedeep.co.uk/

    I for one have much enjoyed reading your thoughts and reports on your new work. It's interesting how very different your process has been from mine, though in my case my new work has been driven by a text.

    For me it's been intriguing to read about the inputs and connections with other musics you've occasionally mentioned.

    Your final comment about 'filling notebooks' resonates with me. Over the years I've learnt so much from the practice of visual artists who are trained to do this. Sadly, so it seems, few composition teachers expect to see sketchbooks alongside a finished score. In a year's study of woven textile design undertaken a couple of years ago I learnt so much of lasting value to my music making from art school practice / expectation in the rigorous planning of a new work than I ever did from my studies in composition. And, yes, I did keep a blog during that particular adventure . . .

    Many thanks for sharing your experience. I look forward to the performance in October. My own is just three weeks away!

    Nigel Morgan


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