Colin Tommis reports on progress with his BUDDIES project - a recording of his music by the Menai Wind Quintet
I have had the pleasure of listening to the Menai Wind Quintet run through my piece. This exposed various problems, less so with the notes written and more with the cues and help which the players need in their parts. Some needed to know when they were in rhythmical unison with another instrument and entries were coming in a bar early or late, because the parts were not cued.
There was a problem with the enharmonic spelling of the 2nd movement. Whether it's sharps or flats, the players have to read lots of them. I am very reluctant to misspell a B sharp as a C, just to make it easier for the player to read. It runs against all my training! In the end I settled for a key signature of five flats, but there's a flattened 6th in the melody so Bbb is a prevalent note.
I've also been surprised by the dynamic inflexibility of these instruments. They can play loud fine - playing quietly is another challenge. The consequence is that all dynamics have gone up a notch.
My first thoughts on phrasing have changed, it was all a bit too mellifluous if slurred, so slurs have been reduced to give it more rhythmical 'bite'.
Their tempi aren't as fast as I had envisaged (yet) and so the quintet is longer in duration than I thought.... you don't much get much 'change' out of 20 minutes. I have spent the day going through a rough recording I made of the rehearsal and seeing how I can change the score to make it more accessible for the players.
Intonation has been a big practical problem so far and I can't write in perfect tuning, I don't think. Once the members are more familiar with the piece, hopefully they can give some attention to this difficulty.
An early plan to try to record soon has been abandoned because of the (lack of) availability of players, so a recording may now happen in May. By that time, the piece should be much more under their fingers!