Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hmmm. Haven't posted for a long time. I've been on holiday to Santorini and Chester. While I was away I did some work on Lovesongs and since getting back I have finally finished (nearly) disiecta membra. I have only to go through it and change some of the sforzando markings to other accents (the use of sfz throughout the score has made it look a little hysterical - I'm replacing them with accents, tenutos, etc. but also (for the strings) sometimes replacing them with just bowing indications). Nice to finish it though. Looking forward to it being on the computer and printed out.

I'm planning to send it to Ensemble Exposé, who have expressed an interest in working with me over the next few years (I'd like them to be the main 'band' for the ensemble pieces within my cycles). I started the piece in September 2002, for the ensemble Symposia, based in Glasgow, who had asked me to be Composer in Association for 6 months. It wasn't a fantastic partnership. disiecta membra, in the form I gave to them in October 2002, wasn't very finished. I had written it in a hurry after spending a year working in an office without composing and had gone back to some very basic automatic processes to generate material. I had ended up with a quite complex piece for septet with very hard rhythms (at times unnecessarily so) and no dynamics or articulations. The time signatures were also slightly unwieldy (14/16 to be understood as 3+4+5/16 etc.) and unhelpful. The other pieces that I wrote for them were Cantus 6 (for flute, clarinet, tuba and 'cello) and Music for Pete Greig (for flute, clarinet, and detuned 'cello). They were also planning to perform Fantastica Stutta Diaboli (from my Blake cycle) (for flute, oboe and clarinet) but in the end, only Cantus 6 was performed. There were rehearsal issues to contend with (the saxophonist (that I later changed to a clarinet) in disiecta membra was sporadic in his attendance, and the whole septet found it difficult to come together for number of rehearsals that the piece required; the oboist for FSD didn't appear tomaterializee; and we worked quite intensely on Music for Pete Greig, especially on the detuned 'cello harmonics, but by the time it came to the performance, the 'cellist had forgotten how it all worked) but also I was trying to juggle the two commissions that I had that year (Lovesongs for the London Sinfonietta, and De contemplationis digitis for the Cheltenham Festival) and didn't really have the time to spend a lot of time solving problems and generating new pieces. I regret that more didn't come out of this collaboration, and I'll attempt to send the new versions of all three pieces on to them so at least they knew it wasn't all in vain!

It took me about 2 years to come to terms with disiecta membra and realise what needed changing. At the time I had a real problem with dynamics and articulations. I think that I've got over it now (at least for the time being) but the history of this piece has really been the history of my approach to music over the course of my PhD. My approach to gesture, dynamics, and articulation has, I believe, passed through the crisis and emerged stronger and more nuanced. None of this would have been possible without the patient and insightful criticism of F, and I've decided that this would be a good piece to dedicate to him.