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  • 1Contents

    Introduction

    2

    1. drift of summer

    4

    2. fffppp

    8

    3. twine and a piece of twine

    13

    4. Trace

    19

    5. aux ombres

    24

    6. Chamber Music

    29

    7. Duo

    34

    Bibliography

    39

  • 2Introduction

    My compositional work since 1996 can be divided into two main areas:

    i. Beginning with the series of works entitled drift of summer, I set out to

    explore the relationship between the composer, the score and the performer, seeking

    to allow a traditionally skilled performer a more active role. The main reasons for this

    were:

    A wish to underline the individual nature of each performance, both by different

    performers (to allow them to make the work their own) and the individuality of

    different performances by the same performer; to allow the personal, individual,

    characteristics of the players and local circumstances to influence the realisation

    of the piece.

    A wish to open up aspects of the work, to allow it a life of its own; to find a sense

    of (limited) unpredictability or spontaneity for all involved (audience, player,

    composer).

    An attempt to ensure a more involved and dedicated performance than is usually

    the norm, by allowing players to invest more in the work, often insisting on a

    certain amount of commitment in preparing for performance. This can be both

    through technical expectations (asking players to perform at some limit of their

    technique e.g. as fast as possible) and in the actual realisation/ making of parts of

    the piece.

    Trying to move away from the restrictive notions of interpretation of works by the

    performer. If one allows that players participate in shaping / making the work in a

    limited sense, even in traditional circumstances, then it seems to me to be

    desirable to channel this involvement and build it into the work. This can be

    achieved by pointing the players attention to where their interpretative powers

    should be directed (e.g. by an absence of notational information such as pitch or

    rhythm).

  • 3Underlying all of the above factors is a basic wish to find a certain energy,

    tension and intensity in performance which are more often found in improvised

    musics than in closed works for the concert hall, and to couple this with the more

    considered, researched aspects of technique (general process, rhythmic patterning

    etc.)

    The opening of drift of summer described here can be seen to have taken the

    following forms:

    Formal freedoms - pathways through set material.

    Qualitative freedoms phrasing, dynamic shaping of material.

    Temporal freedoms absence of rhythmic specificity.

    More general freedoms, such as the withdrawal of certain notational

    parameters.

    The drift of summer pieces were a deliberately extreme, experimental series of

    works which attempt to work through the ideas outlined above. They were followed

    by a shift of attention towards the redefinition of other aspects of my compositional

    technique, particularly pitch, rhythm and structure. However many of the aspects of

    the open work explored in this series have continued to influence subsequent pieces;

    in fact all works written after this point are open in some respect. This can be seen,

    for example, in the absence of pulsed, metric writing in both twine and fffppp.

    ii. The works which follow the drift of summer series see the development of a

    more consistent basis for my work, drawing upon acoustic and spectral models and

    knowledge. One of the main reasons for this was an increasing dissatisfaction with

    the generally parametric compositional approach used before, and a wish to bring the

    different aspects of sound/music together, rather than treating them as separate

    entities. Through the use of acoustic and spectral models this becomes possible;

    basing music upon the structure and behaviour of sounds themselves. This was first

    seen in twine, which uses material developed from the common acoustical

    phenomenon of combination tones; here the process is recursively applied to generate

  • 4the overall shape of the piece, as well as the basic pitch information. Other works

    have built upon this, for example aux ombres which is based upon spectrum analysis

    of the sound of the lowest note of the instrument, almost all aspects of the work being

    derived from this.

    Having developed a wider range of compositional tools, these have been

    assimilated into my general technique and gradually begun to be used in a more

    flexible way, with several different compositional methods used in a piece such as

    trace. Finally, later works have taken these techniques and sought to bring them

    together with earlier compositional methods, as can be seen in Duo where a wide

    range of techniques, both acoustically and cyclically based, are used side by side, the

    contrast and differences between these techniques becoming one of the concerns of

    the piece itself.

    As well as the shared and overlapping techniques used in their creation, a

    number of other relationships exists between several of pieces included in the folio.

    The most obvious examples of this can be seen between twine and a piece of twine,

    which clearly use the same material, the latter piece modifying the earlier material to

    fit the new ensemble, and between drift of summer1 and the opening sections of trace,

    which realise material from the score of the earlier double bass piece. Both these

    examples show reworkings of earlier material and the transformation of this material

    in response to various instrumental forces and contexts. Trace itself, partly due to the

    length of time over which it was written (as well as its duration), contains many of the

    compositional methods used in other pieces. For this reason, it is placed at the centre

    of the folio, surrounded by the works with which it shares ideas and techniques.

  • 51. drift of summer1 for Double Bass(es)

    drift of summer2 for Percussionist(s)

    These two studies are taken from a larger group of pieces which share the

    same title (of which there are currently five), and which set out to explore and focus

    upon a number of compositional issues. The most important of these concerns the

    relationship between the composer and performer, and particularly the role of

    freedom in performance. Two main factors were important in highlighting these

    issues, the first of which was the influence of free improvisation, witnessed in a

    number of live performances by people such as Fred Frith, Chris Cutler, Charles

    Hayward and John Zorn. Secondly, they were written after completing a number of

    acousmatic works and reflect a wish to bring experience gained from working

    electroacoustically to instrumental composition. Their designation as compositional

    studies also reveals a need to rethink, and as a result, to change certain ways of

    working through the writing of these pieces. Subsequently they can be seen as rather

    extreme pieces (particularly in comparison with my other instrumental pieces) which

    nevertheless have influenced all my subsequent writing.

    The work which immediately predates these studies, TANK (which was

    written for a contemporary dance performance1) consists of four separate tapes, each

    containing a different type of sound, which are played concurrently from the four

    corners of the performance space. Each tape was made independently and is

    approximately twice as long as the performance. Although the tapes are started

    together at the start of the performance, they should not all be played from the

    beginning. The unsynchronised relationship between the tapes allows each

    performance to be different, and provides a flexible sound environment for the dance.

    The experience of rehearsing and seeing the work in performance, with its variable

    1 TANK was made collaboratively with choreographers Ben Wright and Andrew Robinson. It was commissioned by the Rhythm Method Festival in 1984 and given its premiere at the Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, London in September of that year. The Drift series was begun in February 1985.

  • 6resulting sound world, led directly on to the drift of summer group of pieces and the

    aim of writing instrumentally to create similarly flexible results.

    Although each piece in the series is written for a specific instrument or type of

    performer (e.g. percussionist), each of the pieces can be combined together with any

    of the others. Versions of the work range from solo realisations, through versions for

    multiple players of the same instrument, to performances using all the five available

    versions. In order to accommodate this flexibility of instrumentation, an overall time

    length for the piece was imposed (five minutes), as was an internal division of this

    duration (into ten second units). This temporal framework was created in order to

    allow some synchronisation between players (on a mid to large-scale) whilst allowing

    freedom within this, on a small scale. The absence of any large-scale articulated form

    in TANK (as a result of the temporal freedom between the tape material) is echoed in

    the repetitive structure of drift. At the start of each ten second unit all of the different

    parts are p