As years go by, I find myself trying to compose for less and less instruments, striving for a more intimate voice, a closer ‘look’ to my thoughts and emotions.
Every composer will tell you that it is immensely more difficult to write for a few instruments. It is so much easier to use large orchestras since you can rely on huge dynamics, lots of sound colors, each time you have the choice of altering the sound by combining different voicing, etc.
Writing chamber music, as well as performing it, is an extremely difficult task. All chamber group musicians need to be soloists of the highest standards since every note is exposed. They are ‘alone’, no chance to hide behind the rest of the musicians, every mistake is heard, as well as every intimate expression, which makes the performance great, intimate, personal, so close that you can almost ‘touch’ it, you feel it connecting with your inner space.
Most of my works in the last 8-10 years are for intimate chamber groups, piano plus string quartet, an accordion/bandoneon, sometimes a couple of woodwinds, piano duets, now trios and duets, piano-cello, piano-cello-violin, piano-cello-oboe, end so on.
Often, I spend quite a lot of time before starting composing trying to decide on the instrument pallet I will use. The less instruments, the harder. Taking out is so much more difficult that adding.
A friend recently told me that when he packs for travelling, he chooses only the absolutely necessary, and then before leaving home he takes one piece of luggage out (of the absolute necessary). And when I asked why (although I knew the answer) he told me ‘because… that’s the exercise… that’s how you really value things, and manage without excess, you learn to reach your goal relying on yourself and not your tools… you shouldn’t make it so easy to yourself…’
And I believe him.
I often feel that when everyone shouts louder and louder out there, I need to go down in volume, down to a whisper. Music shouldn’t be heard because it is ‘impressive’ or loud or over exposed. Music is to be heard when you ‘listen’. Closely.