Completion 完成


On 26 June there was a salon concert in Tokyo at which four of my pieces were performed. Two had received performances before: Pie Jesu (from Requiem, arranged for baritone, violin, and piano) and Rainy Day. However, two pieces received first performances: Four Songs of Love and Loss and Summer Songs. It is always exciting to hear pieces performed for the first time, and baritone Masuhara Hideya, violinist Narihara Kanade, and pianist Nagayasu Rie gave lovely performances that captured perfectly the spirit of the music.

I always have mixed feelings in the days after a concert. Perhaps it is the “post-concert blues”. The months of preparation are over, and after the adrenaline of a live performance there is inevitably a little crash back down to earth. The warm feeling of achievement remains, particularly if the performance has gone well, but part of me also feels empty. I miss the time spent working on concert preparations, the camaraderie with the musicians during rehearsals, and the anticipation of how the piece will turn out. If I was a professional musician, I expect I would move swiftly onto the next performance as I do in my university “day job”, where I barely have time to look back on a project before the next deadline looms. However, as I work in academia, the next musical deadline is inevitably a long way off. There is always a big gap into which some “post-concert blues” can fall.

One way to offset the blues is to edit videos of the performance and finalize the sheet music for publication. I have done both in the last month. Do enjoy the concert video embedded below and/or download the sheet music and have a go. But the best remedy for the blues is to work on the next project. While it is too early to make public announcements, performances/recordings of two or three other pieces are at advanced stages of preparation. More in due course!

Ultimately my aim with a piece is to “take it to completion”. I spend dozens of hours working on a piece quietly on my own before it is seen by anyone else. Only when I am satisfied with the piece do musicians see the sheet music. If they are interested in performing it, then we plan a project that hopefully ends in performance and/or recording. Taking a piece to completion, therefore, means that I have achieved a first performance and a publicly-available recording (whether on CD or YouTube). At that point, I feel I have done all that I can as a composer to make the music exist in reality for others – and not just as imaginary sounds in my head. Thereafter the sheet music is published online, and I simply hope that other musicians will discover it, like it, and include it in their own repertoire.

Taking a piece to completion is somewhat like parenting. I find the “piece of music as a child” metaphor very apt. At the concert on 26 June, I took Four Songs of Love and Loss and Summer Songs to completion. They have been performed and recorded, and the sheet music has been published. Now it is time to let go. It’s like when your children leave home. You just have to let them live their own lives independently out in the big wide world. I miss the completed pieces being part of my everyday life. But there are always fond memories that can be rekindled by looking at photos and listening to recordings; and there will be chances to meet again when the music gets another performance. I hope the pieces fly high, and the proudest moments may yet be to come. But if that day never comes, that’s fine, too. Being happy with the piece and having good memories of the first performance are far more important to me than “success” (returning to the parenting metaphor, many parents will tell you their children’s happiness is far more important than their fame or success).

Which is why, in the long run, my aim is “completion” of my pieces. To complete two on one day was very special. The post-concert blues lasted a while, but eventually they were replaced entirely by warm memories. And after catching my breath, the desire to write the next piece of music always emerges. I have made a start …

24 July 2022