almost but not quite

A few weeks ago, I went to a national cemetery on the outskirts of the city I’m living in. At one point, I took two photos six seconds apart of (a modern reproduction of) a traditional pavillion reflected in a pond, adjusting various things in the time between. Looking at the two photos, one is ‘almost but not quite’ and the other is now in my album of ‘very best photos’ for this year. The differences are small: in the first, a few leaves on bush on the near shore are visible, along with a band of the reflected sky; in the second, I’ve zoomed slightly, framing out the bush and sky, and including less of the trees at the top. The reflection is not quite symmetrical horizontally, but the fish fills the extra space. It may not be the best photo ever, or even my best photo ever, but I unhesitatingly chose it among my ‘very best’ for this year.

20160607_165033    20160607_165039

A few years ago, I compiled a set of four pieces for violin, cello and piano. I arranged three of the movements from pre-existing works for other forces, but wrote the third movement with that combination of instruments in mind. I’ve revised the three arranged movements a number of time each, but was satisfied with them in their final form. The third movement, however, remained naggingly ‘not quite’, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A few days ago, I was listening to them (the music notation software I use allows a basic playback using reasonable synthesised instrumental sounds) and realised what I needed to do to make the movement as satisfactory as the others. Again, the differences are small: I made the rhythm smoother throughout, but added some syncopation when the main melody returns, inserted rests to make two one-bar phrases out of one two-bar one, resulting in a more ‘sighing’ melody, and inverted the repetition of one motif (it now goes up instead of down). It’s still not the best composition in the world, or even the best thing I’ve written, but it’s the difference between saying to performers ‘Omit the third movement if you want to’ and ‘Play them as a set of four’. (Still, if they wanted to play just one, it would be my last recommendation.)

Last week, I started a post with the sentence ‘Quick brown fox jumps over lazy dog’. This is perfect headlinese, but not quite standard English. It’s easily fixed – just add ‘a/the/this/that/my/your etc’ in the two relevant places.

Some photographers, some composers and some writers don’t care enough to take two photos, revise compositions or proof-read sentences. I do. Possibly too much. For all my revising of my compositions, only an early version of one movement has ever been performed.


3 thoughts on “almost but not quite

  1. …revise…Possibly too much

    nu uh. It just isn’t possible to over revise or over edit as long as one stops as soon as perfection, or relative perfection is achieved.
    I can address photographers and writers practices as I am both a photographer and a writer. Sadly, even though I have played music since childhood (not much in the last 15 years due to circumstances outside my control) actually composing music is far beyond my puny talents, so I will not delve into that particular area.
    Professional photographers do not take just one shot. They do not take two. They often take dozens or even (especially if the availability of the subject or subject matter, is fleeting) hundreds of photos to achieve the ‘perfect’ image or, if perfection cannot quite be achieved, at least one which falls into the ‘almost’ or ‘relative perfection’ catagory. They can then use any number of manipulation techniques to nudge the image into perfection.
    Most professional authors revise their manuscripts over and over again, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, word by word until, to their inner ear, it ‘sounds’ perfect.
    These practices are what give us the difference between a portrait by an Annie Liebovitz and a snap by Uncle Leo, or the works of a Tolstoy compared to Bulwer-Lytton (who may have edited, but stopped far shot of even relative perfection).

    but I know you know all this…


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