2010 marks the 150th anniversary of the 1860 edition of Walt Whitman's monumental Leaves of Grass. Walt Whitman Productions and American Opera Projects have commissioned a series of settings of the Calamus poems to be premiered on several concerts in the New York City area. My contribution to the effort will be a new version of a song I wrote a few years ago, "Trickle Drops," for tenor and piano. The new version, "Drops of Me," will be for baritone and cello.
Why an author (or composer) chooses to revisit and revise works is a mystery only the creator can ever definitively solve. In this instance, my reasons are expediency--revise an existing work rather than create a new one to meet the constraints of the commission and, most importantly, its deadline. My revisions tend to be driven by pragmatic reasons. Rarely do I pick up a work again and revise it for the sake of revision--what's done is done and I look forward more to the next work, the new piece, to what's just over the horizon.
Walt, however, worked on Leaves of Grass most of his life. For an interesting interpretation for this, check out Jonathan Ned Katz's Love Stories. So, why do you revise?