One of the projects I set for myself this summer was to write a piece for horn and cello. Didn't happen. I came up with what both Dr. Andy and I thought was a great kernel / introduction in one of those odd time signatures I like so much, but nothing doing. Either those dozen or so bars really don't want to go anywhere, or I wasn't able to figure out how it can happen. So I put it aside and spent a lot of time arranging music for the brass group. But there was this feeling of failure, of a journey not completed, not to mention wondering if the muse had fled.
Then one of my students asked for a piece for her and her sister, flute and trumpet, and I came up with a little duet for them. And when arranging things for the weekly meeting of the brass group I've been doing these little harmonic studies to hear how the various instruments blend from various points in their registers. The point being that setting small goals makes coming up with something much easier.
Another thing that's been going on in the composition realm has been going back to pieces written in the 90's for various combinations of flute, alto flute, keyboard and cello - and trying to get the computer to play them again. There have been any number of upgrades to Finale since then, and it's taken a number of tries to get playback to work, but it finally does.
At any rate, I've had a few listens to those old pieces and it's been great fun, certainly in the psychological sense of being reminded of my state of being back then, along with being reminded that whatever it is I want to do as a composer comes out as a kind of style or sound, something first noted by our Vermont readership / flute player for whom the music was written. Kyle Gann revels in every piece being a totally new departure, and they certainly sound that way. For me, that there's a commonality to my sound over the years is sort of reassuring.