So I’m not so good with them. I think this is for a couple reasons:
I like the idea of writing music that is somewhat self-evident in terms of how you’re supposed to play it. This may be pie-in-the-sky and probably is, but I’d like it best if the music suggested its own way of playing it well enough to the pianist that I don’t have to mark the thing other than to just pin down the bits I feel are important.
This brings up another issue, though. Looking at the scribbles I’ve made on the sheet for the F minor thing, I haven’t done anything even vaguely consistent, where a hairpin marks a crescendo, and one plays at the same level of loudness until the next hairpin pops up the other way around. I’m just marking “you’ll want to get gradually a bit louder here in this part.” I’m not really saying anything else; the parts that aren’t marked should be smoothed out in a pleasing manner according to the pianist as they move between parts that are pinned down more. I just wrote the thing. I’m not here to tell the pianist how to play it. That’s their job.
Also, part of the appeal that I’m discovering about writing music is that it’s a way to get to know a pianist, by giving them something I’ve created and saying, “Here, what would you make of this?” It’s a way to become acquainted with someone. Sure, there will be some interps that I’ll like personally better than others, but I’m not a control freak about this sort of thing. If a pianist can play the thing in a convincing, pleasant way that takes the audience and themselves on an internally consistent musical journey that “flows well,” good on them. And it will be fun to see what happens in that case. There may be a completely consistent, valuable way to perform this thing that I haven’t thought of; the piece may be less Thingish than I think it is. How neat to let another pianist make those discoveries — and if I’m too much of a control freak, I’ll miss them.
I’m not sure how to mark the piece, as a result. How to denote the fact that that hairpin over there doesn’t mean that you have to ratchet up to a uniform level until the next hairpin tells you to pipe down? How to denote that I’d like this part to be a titch quieter than the previous part, and if you want to throw in some rubato, have fun? This part over here though? I have some definite ideas on that one, so I’ve marked it louder, and a bit more playful. I seem to be thinking more along the lines of “play this part like a rag, then this part like a minuet, then this part like a slow, leisurely waltz.” That’s hard to reduce to the prime factors of mp/p/pp/mf/f/ff and a bunch of hairpins.
Besides, what does pp mean, anyway? I think of it as a whisper, but I don’t seem to use it much at all, or ff for that matter. Or maybe I do and my judgment is not the same as another composers.
I just don’t care enough about micromanaging. Here you go, here’s some music. Go nuts. I just wrote the damn thing, that’s all I’m here to do.