And we’re off!

Day 1 of my 2012 Creative Pact! True I have spent more of today scrubbing four layers of paint off a layer of tar than I would ideally have chosen to, but there has nevertheless been progress.

First up, the first work-in-progress blog post for the two pieces I’m working on – Lilies on the Silver Sea and Ladders of Escape – has gone up on If you’re going to follow these posts, you should probably read it so you’ve got a bit of context… go on. I’ll wait!

Today I’ve been largely thinking and setting things up. I’m hoping to be able to do a little work on both pieces each day because I also want to get used to not just working on one piece at a time – my degree starts in a month and I’m going to need to be able to multitask if I’m to get the most out of the experience. Today I kind of failed at that though – the only thing that got done on Ladders was to pull out the Miro exhibition catalogue and have a quick look at the essays and identify the one I’m going to read first (it’s the one on his Catalan peasants). So it’s been mostly about Lilies.

The thing with Lilies is the quarter-tones. Obviously, I need to (and want to) use quarter-tones because the request was for a piece for quarter-tone alto flute, and what’s the point in writing something for quarter-tone alto flute if it doesn’t use quarter-tones?? So I need to get my head aroundhow to use them. To not just bung them in as weird sounds but to really make them a part of the piece.

To that end today I’ve been exploring scales a bit and thinking about the possibilities of quarter-tones to stretch or compress intervals. I started out thinking that I should just define a scale including quarter-tones and then (more or less) stick to that, but that’s beginning to feel a little rigid. Plus there’s the question, then of if I have a G-quarter-tone-sharp but no G or G-sharp to give it a context, what sort of effect will it have? Will it have any effect?

The next thought I had was that the piece has a watery theme and I was thinking about ripples on water and waves and how they’re never entirely evenly spaced and maybe the quarter-tones can be like the variations between waves – sometimes it’ll be a G, sometimes a G-quarter-tone-sharp. I think this approach appeals more – it feels more appropriate for the piece I want to write but I think I still want to explore the scale thing a bit further and build a base scale that I can push and pull with the quarter-tones as it feels appropriate.

Lauren Redhead has come up with a great idea with her Creative Pact post today, which is that she’s working from a Spotify playlist for the listening diary portion of her challenge. This is such a great idea that I’m nicking it and starting to compile a Spotify playlist of my own – of music relating to these two pieces I’m working on. The first thing in there is Charles Ives’ Three Quarter-tone Pieces. I was unaware of these before I did a Google search for quarter-tone music this afternoon, but they’re brilliant. He’s written them for two pianos, one tuned a quarter-tone lower than the other, which gives a whole new perspective, I think, on approaching the idea of using quarter-tones because he has two separate instruments, two separate players, two separate tunings going on. The practical effect is of intermingling the quarter-tones with the ‘normal’ notes, but the concept is an interesting one, and one which I want to think more about. I don’t know whether it’ll be useful in writing for a single-line instrument but I want to consider it some more.

Additionally, I’ve also created a Delicious stack to collate links to things I’m reading or planning to read (or YouTube videos I’m planning to watch) as I go along, both for my own convenience and in case anybody else feels like browsing it. (Let me know if the link doesn’t work – Delicious is saying it’s a private stack but it’s not giving me any way to make it public!) (Oh and I just discovered that Delicious are discontinuing stacks… any… minute… now. Argh. Will update in a future post when I work out what on earth is going on)

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