Advent Calendar: 13

Coming to the end of a rather tiring but extremely productive day in at college. Guess I really need to pull myself together and do this more often rather than languishing at home being cold, eating too much and not getting enough done. A lesson learned. I hope 🙂

Had to skedaddle in in a hurry because the rehearsal I thought was at 3 had been moved forward to 11 (my fault – forgot to check my college email yesterday evening). This was with the quartet who will be playing my Rothko quartet when it is finally finished. Fantastic to hear them play together – they’re really good, and in particular it was great to hear their specific sound. The two violins, in particular, were a bit of a revelation because their tones are quite different – the 1st violin (James) has a classic violiny tone – really clear and bright – while the 2nd violin (Jaya) has a much mellower sound – almost violay on the lower strings. They really play beautifully together and it was great to hear the type of discussion in their rehearsal. We didn’t play through my piece as this was more of a sit-in session for me to be able to meet them and have a listen, but I am assured that there is nothing unplayable in the first 2 minutes of the quartet. I also asked them if there was anything in particular they were keen to work on as a group and they’re interested in improving their ensemble playing and intonation so I think that should work quite well in this piece. They’re really friendly and very enthusiastic and their Haydn is lovely 🙂 Think this is going to be great.

I retreated to the college cafe with cappuccino and croissants after the rehearsal, colonised the only powerpoint and set to work. With the result that Fear of Falling is now 2 and a half minutes long – past the halfway point! I’m really super-pleased with how it’s coming together and feeling more confident about the short-scoring each time I come back to it.

I also did some more reading and thinking for the Personal Project. Still on the Morton Feldman. Some interesting ideas in there about “surface” and “content” and on process and systems. Need to think more about these. I also had another look at the Twombly mushrooms on the Tate website and am starting to think about how I might approach this. I think the big challenge is to determine a way to approach his gestural scribbles. They’re such a defining feature of his work, it seems irresponsible to embark on a project like this without considering what the equivalent would be, in a way that works for my style. Might try to get to the Tate Reading Room tomorrow to do some reading up on this so that I know what I’m dealing with.

I’ve also been considering what instrumentation to use. My original idea for the project was piano pieces – but that was when I was thinking of a series of pictures, each with its own piece, probably exploring a different technique, and the idea was to publish the pictures with the score opposite, as per Erik Satie’s Sports et divertissements. However, now that the project’s changed and I may not be able to publish the images with the scores (need to chase that up with Tate and get quotes on including the images in my [unpublished] assignment submission and in a [to be sold] print publication should I be pleased with the final result) and it’s more about the response to the artworks in general than specifically matching up one piece with a particular work, the scope has changed and piano feels (a) a little dull and (b) a little restrictive. While I have access to performers, I feel I should be using them.

The other side to this is that if I’m pleased with how the pieces work out, I’d really like to work with Tate to put on a performance in the gallery alongside the artworks. I need to get in touch with them to discover what the logistics of this might be – whether it’s feasible to stage one or more concerts with live musicians, or if a recorded-music on headphones approach might be more feasible, or if this isn’t even something they’d consider. If a live performance is a possibility, then I suspect that piano would be a logistical nightmare. All things considered, I think I may be leaning towards a wind quintet lineup, not necessarily using all instruments in each piece (so could vary between full quintet, solo bassoon, trio for flute, oboe and horn, etc.) and am considering the possibility of wind quintet + 1 percussionist.

Plus I’ve had a lovely succession of friends while I’ve been camped out here in the cafe – lovely chats to brighten my working day! MUST do this more!

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