A point raised during my most recent PhD tutorial was the question: ‘at what point is a piece finished, is it ever deemed ‘untouchable’?’

It came about after I’d mentioned I’d revisited an earlier piece from my portfolio, and reworked a short section. In this instance I was just tidying up a couple of bits of recording that I’d never been entirely happy with. I do often find myself though, listening to something that I thought I’d finished, only to end up thinking ‘Ah, that could be better’, or ‘how about if I try that new reverb plug-in on this?’.

Minor things, but they can still sometimes occupy considerable time, and I’m now midway through this PhD thing, with a lot of work still to do.

So can a piece ever be considered to be ‘untouchable’?

Pierre Boulez’s work was apparently in a continuous state of revision and rework.

Prior to the invention of the Phonograph, there was no definitive version of a piece of music, a musical work existed only for the duration of the performance.

I’ll write a far more detailed consideration for my portfolio commentary, but here are a few things that I thought about this afternoon:

Does the piece do and say what you wanted it to say?

Does it fulfil whatever criteria you set for it at the beginning?

There’s sometimes also a need to separate the aesthetic of the piece as a whole, from the technical production. If you’re working primarily with field-recorded sound; as I do, then the recordings are what they are. You also need to consider what information the listener is able to get from the recordings. There’s a particular piece in my portfolio, composed from material recorded on Ramsey Island in Wales. I made what I considered to be some very good recordings on the beach. Lots of nice sound from the waves crashing, rolling and splashing. I’d also unintentionally recorded the sound of pebbles being dislodged by the action of the sea. It was unintentional, but it gives the listener vital information about the location.U