slightly preposterous titles

November 14, 2015 - news / workbook

I’ve just made a couple of new pieces in my series things to do and the semi-descriptive titles I’ve been using recently are, perhaps, getting a little cumbersome. The two new pieces are titled we cannot say the things we are allowed to do and we gradually have more things to do and fewer things to say. They do the job though, describing the process the players go through when verbally cueing each other to make sounds. This is not the first time I’ve made pieces with titles that are hard to remember. In my earlier series divisions that are autonomous but that comprise the whole (and I had to check that before typing, and got it wrong), I used extracts from statements by artists to describe what happens in the piece. These include although it may appear to vary by the way in which units are joined and it may exist for a few seconds or it may go on indefinitely – again, both say what happens in the piece.

I wonder if there is a connection between the memorability of the title and the way we remember the music? In my own work, the titles I can remember are generally the pieces that stick in my mind most readily. Sometimes that’s because they are performed more, or are more recent. But in my old #[unassigned] series, the use of a number string derived from the date is curiously unproblematic in this respect. Despite there being over 175 of these, I’m pretty good at knowing which version is which. This may be due to each being a bespoke piece, normally made for events where I was in attendance, so the memory they create is tied to the date, people and place.

Perhaps this is a general problem though. How do we distinguish between all those untitleds, lengthy series of generically-titled piano sonatas and string quartets, knowing one opus number from another? Are titles important really, or are they just a way to catalogue work to make it easy to refer to? I’m not sure it’s possible to generalise, but I am pretty happy with my approach to titling for the moment though. They give the pieces a sense of belonging to others in the same group and set the tone for the music I hope. It might be that I struggle to remember the difference between certain elements within that situation remained constant and opposition between the two spaces and their common mediation, but I can always check the score as a reminder. Just don’t test me on them.

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