I cannot avoid repeating the usual cliches about Civitella (they are all so true), such as the peaceful atmosphere highly conducive to work, the beautiful and tranquil surroundings, the great apartments, wonderful food, helpful staff, the excellent company of other artists, friends and staff and the lively exchanges of ideas. I will certainly miss the anticipation of lunch arriving in little tin containers and wondering what deliciousness awaits me.
It’s more difficult to discuss the subtle benefits to the creative process of a significant period of continuous and uninterrupted time to free the creative mind. With the multiple pressures and insane speed of everyday-life, non-artistic criteria increasingly impinge on artistic production (simply the need to make a living). There is less and less time to open the mind and focus on new possibilities and ways of thinking. Composers can easily lapse into their own cliches if they are not careful. After some time, they become aware of what works for them and the risk is to fall back on such techniques when deadlines are short and the pressure to produce is great. The professionalized structures of today’s art world emphasize career, production and efficiency. The administrators of arts funding bodies often impose deadlines to composers with little realization of the time needed to compose a new work (with the emphasis on the new). In particular, it is the thinking time early in the compositional process (when there can seem little evidence of work done on paper) that can be critical to whether a new idea is born or an old idea is revisited. For me ‘new’ ideas (pieces I am writing now) anyway exist on a continuum from ‘old’ ideas (pieces composed in the past). Composers cannot reinvent the wheel each time but must grow from the musical spaces they have occupied. The ‘new’ is therefore a fragile, subtle and complex formation of paths found and connections made. I composed one-and-a-half new works and revised four pieces, including ERG[O] for ensemble (see extract from the piano part) during my stay at Civitella. The hardest thing for any artist is to get started and it is always a difficult time for me. The birth of new ideas can seem agonizingly slow and distractions are welcomed. At Civitella there are no distractions and there is no choice but to focus on the problems at hand. Thanks to my time here I got through this initial period relatively painlessly (it usually takes several months) and am well into writing my new piece Presence/Absence, commissioned by the Swiss contemporary music group ensemble Cattrall