A palimpsest is a piece of parchment on which the writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text, thereby enabling a saving to be made on a costly material.
The 'overwriting' that numerous composers engage in on their own work is a different kettle of fish. Sometimes the 'older' score appears in a new light, as is the case with Luc Brewaeys' 'Painted Pyramids', where a work for solo piano has been give a polychrome makeover, as it were. Petra Vermote recycles sounds, instrumental timbres and chords that she analyses spectrally ('Re-search') and then reworks again to build up a new work ('Re-Architecture'). For Luciano Berio, writing a new score with the same material was the best way of analysing music. In his 'Chemins II', he left the original 'Sequenza VI' for solo viola intact, but gave it an instrumental commentary that reveals the hidden layers of the original. A constant source of inspiration for Wolfgang Rihm's compositional work is painting: in 'Male über Male' he applies layer upon layer "with expression that pounces like a wild animal, naked and rough-hewn", according to Jörg Widmann, for whom Rihm composed the work.