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  Musical memory & revising old pieces.  Team Gaughan at 13:49 on 14 October 2009

I haven’t composed for a long time but in 2006 I started again. I managed to lose a great deal of music one way or another, mainly stupidity!!! I have also managed to contact a number of people and get what I consider to be my best pieces back. One however I will have to reconstruct somehow and another I just have the solo viola part and sketches, although I remember I was very proud of the ‘continuo’ group of Harp, Harpsichord, Piano and Harp. I certainly can’t remember every note I wrote, yes I have a good idea of what I did, and what comes where, climaxes, ideas etc etc, but certainly not a photographic memory. I wonder how other people feel about such things, have you tried revising older pieces with the minimum of scores and material? Could you remember a whole work?

I also came across a concerto for oboe that I wrote at 15 (I am now 41) and thankfully have the full score this time- I have started revising this piece too which is great fun, I am changing whole sections and ideas but I can see preoccupations in that piece that I still use now. I was tempted to keep it just as it was, but actually the revised version has turned out to be something rather special, fractured as it is with 25 years of experience, it is now turning into a symphonic work. I wonder what other people experience of this is?


ps my name is Martin, I can't seem to change my name from what I entered originally.

  Re: Musical memory & revising old pieces.  MartinY at 08:21 on 15 October 2009

I lost the whole paper material of a string quartet, (one movement), and a brass band piece. This was in the days of hand copying and expensive photocopiers whose output used to smell photographic. (Some of the copies still smelled 15 years later.) I reused the tunes but could not reconstruct the parts or even the bottom line. I think the inner parts were rather stereotyped and no loss to the world of music!

Of course now we have other problems. I accidentally moved a whole directory of Sibelius files to another part of the computer and took me weeks of puzzlement before I found it. Bars sometimes appear to have disappeared and occaisonally you do an accidental paste over something you wanted. Backup regularly but sensibly. I know of a case where someone wrote over the last copy they had during a failed backup to update it. Saving the cost of a data stick can easily be achieved by repeating hours of work.
100 hours in the laboratory can save a whole hour in the library.

An easy way to take a quick backup is to mail your files to yourself on another computer as an attachment. This is important because multiple copies on the same hard disc or data stick give no protection even though it might seem psychologically useful.