An Embarrassment of Riches

or: too much information

Lauren Craen 1650-ish

The idea of having way too much of anything, like these Baroque Nederland-ish depictions of plenty, is something that keeps coming back to me as I sort through all the material I’ve gathered for the Peddars Way project. I particularily like the coy reveal through the parted velvet curtains of a very un-Nederlands backdrop with hills. Wine, silk cloth, exotic fruit, cherries, oysters, shrimp, ham, Venetian glass, silver platters…someone has stopped for a breather …or something; perhaps that something suggested by the oysters.

Working on the Peddars Way  piece, I realize I’ve gathered way too much stuff to keep the the thing cohesive: thirteen melodic fragments, five church resonance profiles, two plainchant melodies; plus several months of sketches of messing around with it all. Pages and Pages of messing around. It’s now more than half-written, and I’ve just spent an afternoon assembling the fragments in their working order to have a try at how the connections work. Normally I try to keep the number of processes and monads at a minimum; not so much that I’m concerned with a total gesamtkunstwerk , an organicism of material and media springing from a single source.

The main question is do I try to keep it more-or-less through composed, or reveal the joins that make up the whole. Again, both the Berio and Stravinsky stuff I’ve been obsessing over is happy to use either a suite or a collection of individual songs as a template. The thing that makes it work is the coherence of the composer’s individual voice.

It’s a little like when I use the swiss chard I’ve cut out of the garden; I’ll wash and chop it a few times until nothing seems to be moving (always bad in a salad). Then, when I assemble it in its context, the connections wil be revealed, hopefully. As I write this, I’m checking out the March chard from the garden to go into the risotto – all quiet on the veg front.

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