Going beyond the carrot and the stick

I keep having to remind myself of the progress I make. Even this five-sharp piece that I wrote beyond my abilities is rapidly moving within the sphere of my abilities. I really am seeing more and more reasons to think that a necessary way to acquire technique is to write things that are one inch beyond one’s abilities. Yes, you need scales and arpeggios, and to learn the standard student rep (Clementi, etc.). Absolutely. But alongside that, I really would encourage anyone who wants to build technique to compose. There are a great deal of technical challenges I would have blanched before as a teenager that I am now just hammering away on, purely because my ear heard it that way and that’s what I had to write down, so I had no choice but to learn how to do it.

Not because a teacher said so or someone else’s music said so, but because my own need to say a definite something demanded that I learn it. Neither carrot nor stick — they are both held before one from the outside. This motivation is internal — I need to say something a certain way because that’s how I’m hearing the music, so I have no choice but to figure out how.

Am I still doubtful when confronting these instances? Yes. Can I still tell that I don’t quite have them down pat yet? Yes. Do I still have to take it to the woodshed to maintain it? Oh, yes.

But it’s there. Endless arps in the right hand, large leaps in the right hand (including one between the first and second triplet in a piece marked 12/8 presto), fiddly stuff, pedal work. Pedal work! I am actually solving problems with the pedal and thinking of it as a sort of 89th key and integral tool instead of just working on the notes and tossing a little obligatory fluidity in there with the pedal to hide problems instead.

I need to figure out where I want this five-sharp thing to head. I’m still flying in a fogbank here, and I need some sort of thing to lock onto on the ground so I know where to come down. I’m finishing this one.

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