Saying something a dozen times versus once being enough

In this post, I mentioned a few pieces of music that I wanted to listen with with the scores in hand, as well a a few different colors of highlighters so I could get a grip on when various themes show up, how many times something pops up, that sort of thing.

But I started thinking when this occurred to me … do I want to do that? I do love all of that music that I mentioned, but there does come a time — blasphemous though it may be to say it — where hearing the composer go over and over and over and over the same seven notes in every conceivable permutation and key gets old. A lot of times, these pieces contain fairly simple themes, maybe eight bars of an idea that the guy then just underlined seventeen millions times and approached from every conceivable angle. I’m just not sure I want to do that.

Oh, I do it a lot in pieces of mine, where I’ll introduce an idea, then come back to it in a new way, or revisit the original idea at the end of the piece and add something to it. But these guys just hammer it until it screams for mercy. It reminds me of artwork by people with schizophrenia, where things are outlined and reoutlined, and re-reoutlined dozens of time because there is some part of their heads that just can’t stop once they get into a given pattern. I’m not sure I want to do that, to just obsessively overdo something well past the point where I’ve squeezed the best juice out of it. Sometimes I want to reach into the music and say to Brahms, “We HEARD that already! Moving on now!”

Jeez, don’t I sound like a snot, telling Brahms what to do. But it’s true — that sort of thing can get on your nerves after a while. Some of the ideas these guys had didn’t NEED seventeen minutes invested in them, even though they did turn out nice. I don’t really think I want to do that to that extent in my music. I think 5 to 7 minutes is probably about right for most ideas, although making trilogies of works and multiple-movement works sounds like fun. I just don’t think most of the individuals pieces will be going much over about 6 minutes, not unless I want to start doing that time-wasting junk where I keep bringing back the same damned theme a dozen times except ooh this time, it’s in 3/4, this time it’s in the minor key — and not just the main theme in minor, but the whole blasted thing will be played over again in the new key is that really necessary, dude?, this time it’s half speed, this time it’s … Oh, JEEZ. Let it go.

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