Friday, July 22, 2011

Revising Compositions

I've always been hesitant to revise pieces once they've been completed. Part of it has to do with the realization that when writing the piece I was as fully conscious of all the bits of it and what the decisions were to create and join them together as I'll ever be. It's hard to go back and rethink one bit without rethinking it all.

In today's post, Terry Teachout is talking about artistic perfection and has this quote with another take on the issue of revision:

The wisest artists are the ones who finish a new work, walk away and move on to the next project. Whenever a colleague pointed out a "mistake" in one of Dmitri Shostakovich's compositions, he invariably responded, "Oh, I'll fix that in my next piece."


  1. Bruckner was a great one for making revisions to his symphonies - some of them are available in 2 or 3 editions.

    He died before completing his 9th Symphony. It is usually performed these days containing just the three completed movements. But the waste was that the time he might have spent completing the Ninth was spent instead on pointless revisions to his earlier symphonies.

  2. Jonathan -

    Great points - didn't know that. Do remember reading Stravinsky did new editions with revisions to frustrate pirates.

    One thing about pirates, though, it's due to them we have Handel's Water Music and/or Fireworks. He himself didn't publish either one or both (I can't remember which).