Writing for physical theatre

April is looking like it should be a rather exciting month, and after hearing and seeing so much music over the past couple of months (OAE mostly, but some opera and more recent music) I feel ready to write again. At my PhD viva I mentioned that the next step in my own writing was to explore timbre through electronic means; I am not overly keen to exploit the potential of computer-aided music but my most recent project necessitates the use of sequencing and recorded material so it seems the ideal time to get up to speed with writing using Logic Pro. I’m very grateful for all the advice from the wonder Twitter composers who are never ceasing in their enthusiasm for sharing their knowledge (Reuben Cornell particularly!).

Hearing so much early music over the past two months has been something of a cleansing experience; chasing so much newness for the PhD needed to be counterbalanced by a reverence of the past. Plenty of Bach and Handel was indeed welcome. It reminded me of the power of cogent lines, argued through rigorous processes that exploited the potential of material within a focused framework of tonality. The performances of vocal works – Handel cantatas particularly – did nothing but further my interest in the timbre of the voice, and hearing the London premiere of Beamish’s ‘Spinal Chords’ was particularly moving for me because of the timbre of Juliet Stevenson’s speaking voice; she did so much to make the text compelling and utterly powerful.

My next project is working with a designer/illustrator and two performers to create a work exploring recycling and waste – though this is something of a gross simplification on my part as the¬†concept is far more complex and intriguing than perhaps my words enable me to explain. It presents me new challenges as a composer – the colloboration so far has been exciting and I’ve relished the chance to discuss the project with Mauricio Carneiro and Beo da Silva. Looking at the previous performances of the work – in a different form – I was struck by the inventiveness and opportunities to create music that could exploit the features of the concept not only on a micro-level of matching the movements of the performers but on a macro-level in that I too could use recycled materials in the creation of my music. Recycled materials came to mind as a resource of sound production – something I could record and ultimately manipulate in Logic – then my interest in appropriation and quotation suggested that I might explore manipulating pre-exisiting material (perhaps of my own) to craft the music for this piece.

I am particularly excited that this project allows regular collobration to develop something that will hopefully be a cohesive performance; I welcome this as a change to my usual working practice of creating a score that is then delivered to the performers, with perhaps minimal discussion. I am also excited to be working on creating the performance of the music myself – with Logic I will create the final recording of the material, missing out the score creation as this step is not required. Perhaps later I might create a score, though I think I am going to revel in not having to deal with semiotics and only in sound…

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