Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The End is the Beginning*

(* with apologies to Guillaume de Machaut and Phil Grange for borrowing the title of this post)

Thirty Days doesn't seem like long, does it? Four weeks and two days. One month out of the twelve; 8.2% of a year.

I can promise you, however, that writing a piece of music every day for a month is a major challenge. What I've experienced in this last week I can only describe as a battle with my own creative consciousness. The 28th was the first day when I didn't write my original idea for the piece (I'm saving it, I need something to do next month!) because I didn't have the energy and focus to see it through properly in the time available. I am, I should say, quite pleased with what I wrote instead. But my point is this – there is a surprising (to me) amount of both mental and physical energy which is required for constant and repeated creative application, and I have been fascinated to see how this has slowly ebbed away over time.

There is also a threshold point where you get bored with your own music and start trying wildly different things. For me this has been particularly about harmony. My soundworld tends to fall back onto harmonies which are based on fourths and fifths (whereas tonal harmony is based on thirds) – if you’re wondering what this means, go to a piano and play the triad D/A/E and you’ll get the sense of it. It produces a music which is not tonal but is also not especially dissonant – or at least not dissonant by default (dissonance and consonance, in my view, are elements of the music to be manipulated for a purpose – just like the tempo, for example).

By the end of the third week I was fed up with my usual fifth-based harmonies. I started to get the sense that everything I was producing in this project was going to sound the same. Having sealed everything in envelopes as I went along, I basically had no way to tell whether this was true or not. By the end of the fourth week I had reached a point where either I was producing music where all harmonic control was relinquished (Day 27 – Star Map – where the constellation patterns at the time of writing control the notes) or indeed where there was no pitch at all (Day 28 – Tapping Music). So as a composer I have come out of the other side of this project with a new appreciation of what I guess is my style or my voice, where it comes from, and how I can move beyond that if/when I want to. That is invaluable.

A fascinating aspect of this project has also been memory. It may sound hard to believe, but I've forgotten some of the stuff that I wrote in the first week. Yesterday, I almost called my piece Duo. I flicked back through the blog and found that I’d written a piece called Duo on Day 5. The earlier Duo was nothing like the Day 29 Duo and I didn't want to connect them (check out Paul’s great article on Titles from last week, if you haven’t already). So I eventually went for the (much better) title of Convergence.

The big question which Paul and I have been considering is, of course, what to do next. We are working on putting together the performance and we’ll put some pictures up here when we get together and open all the envelopes.  We’ll also keep you updated about any performance dates. 

We've been wondering whether 30 Days will become an annual event, maybe with wider participation (maybe one day morphing into something like the fantastic National Novel Writing Month which Paul and I are both veterans of, and which I would highly recommend). We've talked about books of the scores, we’ve talked about recordings – all of that in good time.

What’s certain though is that we are sitting on a pretty substantial body of work which is tied to time and place in a unique way. Where we go next with it is perhaps the most exciting part.
And that brings us on to my last thought for the day. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all of you – old friends and friends not yet met, who have followed, supported, retweeted, facebooked and generally cheered us on. We've appreciated it. We couldn't have got here if no-one had been interested in what we were doing. So congratulations, you are all now philanthropists who have played a little part in creating this body of work.

And here is my reward for getting through. For those who are curious, it is a pint of Adnam’s Ghost Ship from my local (and if you don’t know why that is relevant, read this). 

Thanks for reading.


Day 30 - Paul's 30th and Final Chapter

Keep Britain Tidy
And here it is... the end! Here is my final work of 30 Days in September. Let's get ready for the book... Crowd funding coming soon and the big first performance. What a month. What will I do tomorrow! 

Day 30 - Ghost Ship

The final day.

This piece consists of a very slow, very very quiet three part chorale - in which the three instruments play phrases of differing lengths so that the harmonies shift in gradual cycles - and a semi-improvised solo line which soars gently above it.

30 Days: The Final Day

These are the envelopes which say... we have almost reached our goal!

Welcome to Day 30 and thanks for following/supporting us on the journey so far.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Day 29 - Paul's 29th Chapter

The pendulum swings back and forth. Follow it's progress. Read the score in the direction of travel. It is your conductor. 

Day 29 - Convergence

So we reach the penultimate day of 30 Days in September. This piece is for two performers, each of whom has 6 lines of material to work with which can be played in any order or combination.

The piece was created using a technique similar to the 'cadavre exquis' game created by Andre Breton and his early surrealist group in the 1920s. Each section of each line was written at a different time of day with the paper folded over, meaning that I had to rely on my (admittedly questionable) memory to remember what had come before on that particular line. This proves to be quite impossible, with the added side effect that each section aligns vertically with the other lines at that point. Here's how it looked in progress:

And so the two players converge over the course of the piece, and we converge on the final day of our challenge.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Day 28 - Tapping Music

Well, this challenge is getting pretty tough towards the end, but we're both still keeping up with our daily deadline (just!)

Today's piece is scored for any number of tapping sounds, produced either by instruments or other objects. It takes the form of a web or maze where the performers start in the centre and move outwards (or later inwards) cell-by-cell.

Day 28 - Paul's 28th Chapter

Cotton Tongue Woman
A take on the blues and some rock things in the context of a waltz with noise. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Day 27 - Paul's 27th Chapter

30 minutes (not necessarily in September)
This piece is the only one which I have written using a recording albeit I have still not made any electronic music.
This is to be recorded by the players on the day before a performance takes place. It will require 30 minutes of concentration and will last just 60 seconds when the final 20 seconds is faded out. 

Day 27 - Star Map

This work is developed from a Star Map showing the layout of starts and planetary bodies in the sky in this exact place, at this precise time.

My intention was to draw out the ideas of time and space/place inherent in the 30 Days project. This piece more than any other is a snapshot preserving (and thus inextricably linked to) the moment of the creative process.

Work in Progress

I'm writing a very ambitious piece today since its the weekend, so I thought you good folks might enjoy a work in progress shot.

The music is developed from a Star Map of the sky as it will be over my house at 10pm this evening. It is a fascinating aspect of this project, for me, that all of the works are somehow anchored in time and space - this one more than most.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Day 26 - North Sea Song

This is one of the larger works I have written so far. Its a setting of few lines from one of Heinrich Heine's North Sea Poems.

Now I'm not a romanticist at heart, but I do have a real affinity (surprisingly perhaps) with some of Heine's work.

The scoring is for voice plus two accompanying instruments, who play an almost-isorhythmic sequence (except that it keeps going wrong) alongside the vocal melody.

Day 26 - Paul's 26th Chapter

Modern Bell Ringing Society
I am feeling silly so here is a silly but possibly tricky little piece for doorbells of different pitches - nobody really cares what they are. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Day 25 - A Window into Eternity

This piece is constructed as if hearing a brief window into a perpetually moving continuum with a slow air floating over it.

There were two pieces of sad news yesterday, the passing of the last Mitford sister, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (I was brought up near her family home at Chatsworth) and also of the great conductor and early music pioneer Christopher Hogwood. Although this work is not especially reflective and is not a memorial piece, it nevertheless is a humble nod to these two great figures (in their respective walks of life) of the 20th Century,

Day 25 - Paul's 25th Chapter

We are obsessed with music which is difficult to play. Some composers get upset if the musician can play it with ease no matter how good it sounds. I find this immensely dull. So I made this difficult but silent by passing it to three conductors who conduct nobody but themselves and just look ridiculous. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Day 24 - Paul's 24th Chapter

One Way System
I had a fun day today and I think my sparkly mood shows in this one. I love writing in this quirky cartoon style and I have found that people enjoy playing from these scores. 

Quite by happy accident I wrote this today and then realised that today is piece number 24 and this looks a bit like another piece I wrote (originally for a group in Berlin and then became one of most popular scores to date) called 24 Rooms, which is dedicated to James' daughter (co-conspirator in this project) and which I heard was used as an exercise in a rehearsal by a contemporary music collective of student performers this evening. Wonderful happenstance. 

James' Day 24 - Fanfare (Beginning of the End)

Today's piece: a short fanfare to mark the beginning of the final week of 30 Days.

This seemed like such a daunting task when we began, now I'm not sure what I will do with my evenings when 1st October comes around!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Day 23 - Paul's 23rd Chapter

Blah blah politics
Great orators have been left behind in favour of bullshit artists spouting venom and nonesense. It made me think of a piece with an odd speech which may or may not be topical. 

Day 23 - Choices

I've been a bit under the weather today, so this is a very simple piece.

The performer has to construct their own phrases from three fragments, labelled A, B and C. There are 10 variants of each fragment, with some quite significant variations between them. So you can create a melody which goes on for a very long time and never seems to (quite) repeat itself.

Titles and the poetry of music:

Making sense of a hopelessly abstract artform

Throughout the 30 Days in September project we have been reflecting on what composition is about, what music is and why it affects us. Here are some more of my thoughts.

I have a long-standing fascination with titles and that has been one of the most interesting aspects of the 30 days in September project for me.

On some occasions the title comes before the music because something interesting comes to mind and that sparks a creative process. I enjoy working this way round.

Other times I'll begin with the music but I have no idea what I'm going to call it. I have found some great titles pop into my head while others have deserved some poetic crafting.

Words have a sonic fascination for me which is not dissimilar to the interest which I get manipulating sound - particularly when working electronic media.

In 30 days in September I have limited myself so that I am not allowed to work at all with a computer which is sometimes outside my comfort zone since I specialise in Digital composition, but what this has allowed me to do is to think in a different way about how to signify reality. The title can be helpful in that it can change the objectival nature of a musical form regardless of how well you recognise it.Playing with titles is like constructing poetry (another interest of mine) and fits quite comfortably with the way that I approach the texts in my work - all the ones in 30 Days have been written by me under the time constraints of the project. When there is no text the title becomes even more important. It reflects the back story giving a sense of time, place, shape or process which music itself cannot give you.

The work which I wrote for day 22, for example, features a reference to Thomas Hardy the great author and also gives reference to the theatrical ideas which are happening in the piece. I am imagining a stage set in which a whole series of different miniature scenes are taking place within a larger tableau. The score is called A Village Scene (Perhaps of Mr Hardy?). The construction of that sentence with its brackets and the reference to Mr Hardy reminds me of a crossword clue, hinting at the construction of the music. The music consists of four separate parts which run simultaneously with gaps of specified numbers of seconds so the effect for the listener follows Ives' practice in which different music is juxtaposed as in real world environment.

This could be done very naturally (or at least hyper-naturally) when working with computers and recorded sound, and so to explore this using notation was an interesting challenge for me. It has reminded me above all things that music is a hopelessly abstract art form.
 No matter how hard we try to make it express ideas or reality, it can only do this because we have physical associations with other completed work or acts of nature which are inherently musical such as bird song - or we use text. This makes the poetry of the title so much more important to a composer expressing ideas through notated forms. Unlike electronic music which can use the sounds of the real world, instrumental music can only be abstract whatever the intention of the composer and yet we strive to connect and understand the world around us through this most abstract of art forms because we connect in a deeply emotional and ultimately human way with sound waves when they are tamed to behave in this musical way.

We talk about music so often because it is difficult to quantify what really happens when we hear it, but we know that it moves us. A good title helps us take a step closer to that understanding.

We hope you are enjoying following our creative process. Look out for details of performances and other artefacts which we will make after the composing phase of the project has ended.

Monday, 22 September 2014

James' Day 22 - Fortune

Does anyone remember those paper fortune tellers that kids used to make (before they all had iPhones?)

Here's a musical one. Each player has to fold their own.

Day 22 - Paul's 22nd Chapter

A Village Scene (perhaps of Mr Hardy?)
Today I have been playing with techniques I have used in theatre and also ideas of simultaneity to create a scene which could, perhaps reflect the Thomas Hardy portraying the villagers gathered in the fields to celebrate. Children sing and a madrigal falls in and out of our consciousness. Meanwhile a more sinister and plaintive tale is played out among the merry dances. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Day 21 - Paul's 21st Chapter

Slow Release 
I walked in the countryside this afternoon near the airport. The jet engines roaring overhead and the twisting air which is left when they have passed is exhilarating, but when that rushing gasping air has settled, the serenity and expansiveness of the view over hills and into the far beyond seems even more striking than before. It leaves you breathless in the soft light of late summer as the air seems to melt into the first days of autumn. 
It made me think about space and time and contrasts. This piece is about that most difficult to define emotional response of breathless rapture. 

James' Day 21 - Breathing

I am feeling quite relaxed at the end of the weekend which has definitely come out in my piece today.

This is a text-based piece (only my second of the project - I think? - I've actually forgotten much of what is in the envelopes!).

It is loosely based around a zen breathing exercise, but with some playing involved as well.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

James' Day 20 - Piece for Hammer and Screwdriver

I spent a good portion of today helping my dad build furniture, during which I started improvising this little piece.

It is played on the different parts of a hammer struck with the different parts of a screwdriver giving a nice range of subtly different sounds (metal on metal, metal on wood, plastic on metal or plastic on wood).

Day 20 - Paul's 20th Chapter

Wait for the rain
The sound of rain beginning is one of the most wonderful things in the world. It takes me to a place of serenity. Today I wait for the rain. 


Paul and I spoke during the week and agreed that we should post some of our thoughts and musings on this project as well as our daily piece (Paul got there first). So here goes.

What really interests me about this project is the historical aspect of it. We didn't exploit this much the first time around (2002) except for a couple of pieces as I recall - Paul's piece on the first anniversary of 9/11 (referenced here) for example, or one that I wrote on 13th September 2002 which used extracts from the newspaper from that day. But the idea that this set of pieces is a record of our lives and the wider society which we live in fascinates me. My only regret of the project so far is that I missed the chance to write something in response to the Scottish referendum two days ago, probably the most historic event in this country of the month we have chosen (hope I am not speaking too soon there...).

The other great aspect of this challenge as a composer is having to write something every day. We did run a version of this project 12 years ago but it was a very different affair, and I didn't have things like a job or a daughter back then. Its amazing how one's perspective on everything changes over time. It is so easy for the demands of everyday life to disrupt any sort of creativity. It so easy to sit down at the end of day and think that whatever is sitting is your subconscious is a good idea, but that you're just a bit too tired to do anything with it. The rigours of having to post something by midnight have been invigorating - and both of us, I think, have had some pretty last-minute postings over the last 20 days!

That brings me onto the last great thing about 30 Days from a composer's point of view. The internet. In 2002 we all had email accounts (and had done for at least 2 or 3 years!!) but the internet was something that you accessed only in order to find something specific. It is now everywhere. I can connect to the internet on my laptop, my tablet, my phone - and before too long, my glasses and my watch will no doubt be added to the list. As I write this, we've had 1250 page views on this blog, in just 20 days. It has been read by people in 10 different countries in 3 continents. Apart from the fact that that is pretty humbling, it would have been just unimaginable 12 years ago. It occurs to me actually that with the technology I had available to me in 2002, then in order to upload a picture of the piece I write today, I would have had to take a photo of it, send the camera film off to be developed, pick it up three days later, scan it, and upload it to the blog. Not that I would have known what a blog was, probably.

So that's the end of my Saturday musings (remember what I was saying earlier about having a job? The world should be grateful, it means I can only wax lyrical like this on weekends). It has been an immense challenge and a great privilege to be a part of 30 Days. We have some very exciting ideas about where we are going to take this, and rest assured our plans extend far beyond the end of September. We've got the performance to plan later in the year, and much more exciting stuff to come.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support we've been given. 20 out of 30 today, we're on the home stretch.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Day 19 - Paul's 19th Chapter

Mr C
All the bullshit wrapped up in a paper bag. Now play it bitch

James' Day 19 - Hocket

A Hocket (in mediaeval music) is a melody shared between two (or sometimes more) instruments, where they take it in turns to play alternate notes.

My piece today is a three-part Hocket (for three different melody instruments). There's a strong sense of playing a game in the complexity of the resulting music, and the melody keeps going off the rails and splitting into simultaneous lines travelling in different directions.

The timbral differences between whichever three instruments perform it should also create ever-changing sound colours and combinations,

Heading for the Two-thirds point...

Day 19 today, almost two-thirds of the way through our challenge.

It takes a bit of motivation to get creative on a Friday afternoon. I'm using my ever-growing pile of 30 Days envelopes as inspiration!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Day 18 - Paul's 18th Chapter

An Ugly Fanfare
Throughout history mankind has taken delight in the grotesque, from the artistry of stonemasons warding off evil spirits to the obsessive need to depict horrific events as we were there in our news and social media. 
This Ugly Fanfare takes a bit of this grotesque and throws in a few cinematic clowns and a medieval jester or two. Be grotesque. Go on I dare you! 

James' Day 18 - Cells

Today's work takes a little inspiration from the early phase pieces of Steve Reich, though the harmonic content is markedly different. The piece consists of a series of cells which are repeated for either a range of time or a number of repetitions. All the players begin together but get out of sync very quickly, and ever more so. Thus the harmonies diversify and intensify throughout the piece, punctuated by fleeting moments of almost-unison and almost-silence.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Day 17 - Paul's 17th Chapter

Mechanical Trio
We only know how to read music because we learn. We only know how to write it down because people decided how it should be written. In this piece I invite the players to read my score from their own knowledge of music. It's a trio. It's open to some kind of interpretation. The fascination for me is the dialogue which I know will ensue about what it all means and subsequent dialogues where people begin to question each other as to whether they are getting it right or not. Could end in fistycuffs! 

James' Day 17 - Circles #2

Now before anyone starts... I know that the piece I wrote on Day 12 was also called Circles. Its not that I've run out of titles. Throughout my September, the idea of music which is circular or cyclic just seems to keep recurring. Maybe its because I'm doing the same thing every evening (i.e. writing yet another piece) - it starts to feel like Groundhog Day after a while.

Anyway, Circles #2 is extremely different to Circles #1, other than being, you know, circular.

One of the wonderful things about having a child is that when she's gone to sleep, you still have a house full of arts and crafts stuff. Today's piece was therefore made using a very old-school 'cut and splice' (or to be more precise, cut-and-pritt-stick) method. I actually do this quite often in my more conventionally-notated music to get different linear fragments into the correct alignment. But of course usually no-one ever sees this chopped up and reassembled Frankenstein sketch, because I then re-notate it all and typeset it on the computer. Most of my large-scale pieces have a moment (or many) which was either made in this way, or my other favourite method of blue-tacking cut-out fragments to the wall of our long upstairs corridor.

So now you know. Circular music, presented in its bare bones.

Digging for inspiration

Making yourself compose is nothing new. Many of the great composers living and dead have worked to a tight schedule, setting out time every day to ensure they write something. It's part of the job.

So, what is so special about our 30 Days in September?
What is exciting for me about this project is the unique challenge of writing music every day which we must be published on line and shares through social media before the midnight hour (UK time). 

This constraint means that we must find inspiration, even if that great natural resource is not available at the time.  While I am certain that the inspiration/ compositional process is always taking place in the background as we engage with the world (our comprehension of sound, light and shade, texture; the way we interact with others; an emotional response to the news etc. ) the act of drawing those experiences down through a compositional process is one of mining. Find an idea, make it make sense, define a process, get it on paper. 

Would that we were keeping this process to ourselves, like the composer filling his sketchbook with ideas from which he will choose, when he decides to show us his work, we would have the time to make greater choices. We could ruminate on inspiration and spend time dreaming and deciding. For 30 Days in September we have thrust ourselves into a different, challenging and sometimes uneasy place in which there is no time for vanity and little time for choosing. I love this. When the pieces fall into place the results seem close to the inspiration, and attached intrinsically to the initial idea in a way which I have rarely encountered when crafting a work over a period of weeks. Of course, some if the ideas are merely a sketch which may well bear fruit, but all of them will form their own chapter in a much larger performance. Some will be fleeting glimpses of structure and form while others will make bold statements which stand above the rest. 

Making a performance (but not just yet)
Most exciting is that when James and I bring my work together and begin to view It we will have a whole new challenge.  The 60 pieces are likely to last a couple of minutes each and some could well last much longer. So, how do we perform them? Where and when would be appropriate? What order should they be presented? Who's composition comes first, should they appear in consecutive date order? This is a substantial task above and beyond normal concert programming because we are so deeply invested in a process which has shaped our thinking over the course of a month. We set ourselves rules about how we should approach 30 Days... beyond the scope of the main project. (I am only allowed one sheet of A4 paper per day and NO electronic means). We have talked at certain points about what we are doing, where our journey has taken us and what we are excited about, but neither of us have seen each other's work in more than a smartphone snapshot. 

Will you post clips? We want to hear it! 
All in good time! For now this is a descriptive journey for our future listeners but we have agreed that we will not look at each other's work in more detail until the month is out. 

After that, yes we will begin to play these and capture them and share them. And of course there will be a concert too (if you read this far and have ideas of where you would like to see 30 Days performed please let us know.) 

So we made ourselves compose - and we have looked hard for inspiration. At the time of writing there are 14 more pieces to write. I will fetch my metaphorical spade and keep digging. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

James' Day 16 - Constellation

My piece today is a simplified graphic representation of the astronomical constellation Ursa Major, which should be visible overhead here in Stockport tonight. 

Of course, being the North-West of England, it is pretty cloudy as always at the moment. But I think I spotted part of it this evening, so I'll take that as a win.

Day 16 - Paul's 16th Chapter

 Stress Mantra 
Sometimes life is too much and we count to ten. 

In this piece we all count to our own ten and perform up to three notes which feel natural to us at the end of each phrase of counting. Then we repeat until the room feels relaxed.

Just what an addled composer needs when he gets into the second half of a composition marathon like thirty days. 

There are rules which I set myself for the project - no electronic noodling; one sheet of A4 per day. No pre-printed manuscript paper. Just me, my brain and a nice black pen. I have found myself digging deep for ideas at times and at others I have tapped by head and a million thoughts have tumbled out. As James put it yesterday "you just have to write the day". 

This is like a video diary where the motion and sound will materialise later through the interpretation of others. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Day 15 - Prelude

I've spent a lot of time today (partly because of going to Birmingham and back by train for a  conference) thinking about how '30 Days' works as a whole piece, rather than thirty constituent pieces. How will the structure work when we get to the end of the month? We don't know the answer to that, of course.

Anyone who is familiar with my work will know that I have a bit of a tendency to introduce the 'starting' material of a piece somewhere in the middle. So since this is our halfway point in this madness which is '30 Days in September', I figured it was about time to write a prelude. This is a short, simple piano work, slightly in the style of Debussy but with more open intervals (4ths/5ths/7ths) in the harmony.

Day 15 - Paul's 15th Chapter

Baby Satellites

Today, I am making a move forward to do something with graphic / scores I have been toying with for a while. I have promised one to someone else already but not realised it yet... So today is the first completed one in three dimensions. It revolves around groups of three players performing from a rotating mobile (not a phone kids). But first you have to get all crafty and build the things so that they rotate slowly but for a long enough time and it's essential that the look stunning when the audience sees them. Oh and the only instruments in this are glockenspiels, toy pianos or other similar sounding devices (unless there is an even number of players exceeding 3 in which case a melody instrument may construct a linear melodic solo from all the material.)
Players stand in a triangle formation facing inwards and perform material as it passes them, but only while they can see it... Where there are more than 2 groups additional groups may be placed around the audience if that feels like the right thing to do. There is no limit to the number of groups of three but each must have their own spinning mobile. Stop when it stops and you have performed all the material in front of you. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

James' Day 14 - Chaconne

My piece for today is a Chaconne, based on a repeating bass line (although it doesn't repeat in quite the right place, of course).

Day 14 - Paul's 14th Chapter

Push me, Pull you
Uncharacteristically systematic today, I am fiddling with small mathematical units. Oh and when you get to the end you have to read it backwards and then start again... 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Day 13 - Paul's 13th Chapter

If you find me, I'm gone 
A spacious chant-like song of reminiscence. This is relatively simple but in my head rather beautiful. 

James' Day 13 - Three Lines

This piece takes a little inspiration from renaissance music, a trio with three lines which mostly coincide but occasionally dispute with each other harmonically.

Friday, 12 September 2014

James Day 12 - Circles

A calm and quiet piece today, which seems quite appropriate for a Friday evening. 'Circles' is a solo movement with rules for jumping forwards and backwards - so in theory it could loop round infinitely with an ever-changing structure.

Day 12 - Paul's 12th Chapter

Fanfare Ritual Nothing
Trumpet and fanfare be nothing but go with a bang and fanfare that. Bang bang bang twiddly bang

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Day 11 - Trio (for Paul)

Our original '30 Days in September' project in 2002 had one stand-out moment for me above all others. My old friend and collaborator, Paul J. Abbott, wrote a short electronic piece each day in the original version. On 11th September that year it was the first anniversary of the terrorist atrocities in New York. The emotion of that date was still raw across the world. The repercussions had not yet begun, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or elsewhere.

To write a piece on 11th September 2002 was a massively daunting task, and the piece that Paul wrote has stuck with me ever since then. It was built very simply in principle, using repeating tones at varying pulses, but the effect was ethereal and powerful.

The piece I have written today is inspired by Paul's 2002 work, but scored out for acoustic instruments rather than constructed electronically. Today's date still resonates but the context has changed, after so many years and so many hundreds of thousands of lives lost on the path that history has taken since then. But the concept of this music still seems fitting.

Day 11 - Paul's 11th chapter

No title today. This date is the hardest to write in September. If ever there was a reminder that peace means more than religion, politics and war. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

James' Day 10 - Mobile

This is a circular piece called 'Mobile', partly inspired by the sculptures of Alexander Calder. The accompaniment cycles round at its own pace, inspired by many forms of fiddle music. The lead instrument(s) choose from a range of melodic ideas with freedom to extend them through improvisation,.

Day Ten - Paul's Tenth Chapter

Cell Structure

A cartoon structure of cells which define numbers of pitches and durations and other activities but never define the pitches themselves. I love this kind of maze-like structure which can be a real enabler for those who are used to improvisational work and a window for those who have scarcely peered through. This is certainly one I will be thinking about reworking for my book of graphic / alternatively notated works (includes 24 Rooms and Points of Arrival which have proved popular with performers to date). 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

James' Day 9 - Time Canons

At its heart and in its basic principles, today's piece involves a number of musicians playing the same thing at different speeds.

Because... its just been that kind of day.