It's interesting to look back at my sketches for a piece - my initial ideas, and see how they evolve into the final version. Sometimes, in the beginning, I have what I think is a great idea for a piece, a great motive, melody, etc. But inevitably that first version I come up with will not remain the same. It evolves in someway, through the process of working with the material very closely and making many decisions about it. Even the scope of the whole work itself - the length, the meaning, the inspiration, the direction - can change.
Back on March 9th, I posted here about initial ideas I had for a new choral work. While finishing up Magnolia Star over the past few weeks, I have found little bits of time to think about this new piece and play with the initial ideas. Many of the ideas I discussed in the post weeks ago are still very much on target. However, two main evolutions have happened with this piece recently, which made me think about this whole idea of evolving ideas for a work:
1. The text: My initial idea was to just use the word "Alleluia" for the text. Then I realized that when the piece reaches its climax, it will really need a contrasting section, and it would be ideal to change the text at that point. It would be powerful to set up an ostinato with just this one word, for several minutes as the piece builds, and then when the climax arrives, open up a new world with a change in music and text. I have been thinking about setting Isaiah 55:12 for some time, but I kept thinking that it would be too short a text to stand on its own. Perfect! I can start with "Alleluia," then set the verse, and then end with "Alleluia."
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace:
the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing.
2. I have been struggling with how to start the piece - whether to begin with all four voices, or just sopranos, or sopranos and altos, etc. The repeating ostinato that I'm using starts with a D major chord, which I thought would be a beautiful way to begin the piece. Again, as I thought more and got deeper into the material, I started to think that this needed to change. While the D major chord would make a perfectly beautiful first sound, the piece is really about building to a climax via a repeating ostinato, adding counterpoint and growing slowly. So, in that way it makes sense to start with just the sopranos, stating the simple melody as a monophonic line. Then, perhaps I bring in the altos to add some counterpoint. And then, after two statements of the ostinato, the full choir arrives with that D major chord and the piece continues to build. That's where I am now in my thinking, but it could change!