'The footsteps, neither near nor far away.'
How does one recover from making a large-scale funding application, I find that there is little positive about that use of creative time? I think it lies with who you are; an organization, orchestra, festival, theatre, have specialists, people who are trained in the language, the mindset, they have an understanding of what lies behind a question, and most importantly of all, they are paid for doing their job. And if it it fails - an embarrassment, a blow to the self-esteem, perhaps a knowing or sympathetic glance from a colleague. But for the creator, the composer, things are quite different, they aren’t trained, they aren’t skilled, might not even be that literate, and of course, they aren’t paid. Sometimes I think one ought to be able to make a quick application for funding for making an application.
So when I look at the prospect of making one, the first thing that is looked at is how much work and how long will it take to get the rejection, and how much creative time is lost. The better form of application is one that have either a simple A4 statement of intent, or have stages so that limited work is needed before it is conveyed that it won’t succeed. Of course, many have their specific criteria which are extremely helpful, but here I am thinking about the amount of work required once those criteria have been satisfied. Furthermore, what is the type and content of the input, what external things are required which either mean yet more time, planning, design and meetings, this can add substantially to the cost of making an application beyond the cost of the time itself.
One of the things that is always evident is how few applications can be made which are project based, and how few are open to an individual to apply for. And then there is the age discrimination, it was common to see that. Sometimes one sees this disguised as ’mid-career’ but I am always left wondering about the person who started their artistic career later - mid career can be any age.
So I think the trick with applications is to weigh up, on the grounds that you are likely to be rejected, how much time will it take to be a coherent application, and how much time it will take to make, in your opinion, a near perfect application. Sometimes the difference can be considerable, but I do think the hurt of the good old rejection letter is less painful the less time that has gone into it. And on the whole, it’s probably best for a Fund not to offer feedback, it’s either then not given, is cursory compared with the effort of the application, or fatuous - my best in verbal feedback was ‘I think you could consider reapplying if you were prepared to write it again as a fusion piece’. I was shocked, but there again, a moment or two before, I had been told ‘we don’t think a piece of classical music could be exciting enough’.
So part of my recovery, a reminder that one is happiest creating a work, is a small concert on Friday in London which includes an old work, Dall’Alba al Tramonto, a piece for tenor and piano which uses words by the Italian poet Giovani Pascoli. Most of the work was written in Barga, Italy, Pascoli lived nearby and his house is extraordinarily evocative, containing many examples of his writing. Pascoli had a rather tragic life, more than the usual number of deaths in the family naturally affected him and his writing, but what I loved most about working with the words was how quickly he could move from one mood to another, and indeed that second and third meaning that lay behind the first layer of words.
Pascoli loved the countryside but in a flash you can be moved into those more unhappy, tragic parts of his life, and then be moved out of it equally quickly. As the composer, I thought that was excellent to work with, as with the words, one chord, one moment can just turn the mind, hint at something without necessarily following it up. Close to where I was writing was the duomo of Barga, and Pascoli referred to his love of hearing the bells which from where he lived would have been quite distant and peaceful. From my window they can be mind-numbing in volume although always an adventure in what can happen with three notes. The subtle changes in rhythm, the overtones, and sometimes, getting so far out of sync that they formed chords. This was wonderful to use in the piece, on occasion it just went ‘thank you very much, I’ll have that’, and in it would go.