Friday, 12 April 2013


Imagine that you are a composer and have been commissioned a violin concerto. You take it very seriously. You want to make your work pleasurable for your audience, but you also want to create something original. You want to inspire the listeners and you want to respect their previous knowledge. You want them to recognise your personal themes and tunes, but you also want them to hear how you have developed them. You put all your life experience into this concerto, your knowledge of music history, the various instruments, harmony and counterpoint and all the technicalities. But you also use your imagination, your insight and your dedication to your listeners. When you have finished, you feel that this is the highlight of your professional career.

Then your piece goes to a committee to be evaluated. They say that the violin should be replaced by a tuba. That your woodwinds should be cut down by half. That your percussions should be eliminated and more trumpets added. That you should have written an opera instead. That you are far too original for the unsophisticated audience you were supposed to have in mind, but you also are too simplistic in your treatment of sharps and flats. That there are far too many notes per bar. That the high C you use in the second movement is too demanding on the ear. That your largo is too large and your diminuendo too diminutive. That your allusions to whatever you are alluding to will not be picked up by an average listener because they, the committee, haven't picked them up. That you need to add some explanation on what all those black dots mean. And have an appendix with every note you have used with exact reference to everyone who has ever used them before.

If you wonder what I am talking about, I am revising a manuscript according to reviewers' comments.


Anonymous said...

The kind of feedback that basically says "Why didn't you write a different book?" (and is about as helpful). Lydia

kbkidd said...

Grrr. A nice analogy, though, and an all-too-familiar experience

Eric said...

As a master's student in music composition, I can attest that there is nothing imaginary about any of that.