Elaborating Harold in Italy turned out to be a fascinating project. I had to plug into the piece in a deeper way than I would just by studying the score of the piece and I was fortunate to have MTT’s help.
It was fun to talk with MTT about the viola, Harold, those wild Brigands and the dramatic scenario that connects them. For a stretch, I would share my work and get his thoughts daily.
In retrospect I understand that MTT’s aim was to help me find the slot between being too restrained or too free; the place between an academic exercise to accurately fill in the blanks on the one hand and writing an independent modern piece on the other.
The feel of the process evolved dramatically over the course of my work on the project. At first it seemed like I was trying to be a good student and get an A+ in MUS206: Tonal Syntax, which is a course I frequently teach at Princeton University. By the end I felt like I was composing. I did find a space where Berlioz and I could intersect and where I could let my intuitions fly a little bit.