I approached the initial workshop with a not-insignificant amount of trepidation; in part, because I’d written substantial amounts of vocalisations (whistling / humming) into my sketches, and I was a little nervous about a) whether the musicians would be down to do that kind of thing at the same time as playing their instrument, b) whether the material would even stand as a solid idea, and c) because whilst I wrote whistling into my music, I cannot, for the life of me, whistle myself, so any thought of demonstrating to the musicians by example was out of the question!
The other (much smaller) anxiety lay in the structure of the material I had put together. I’ve been finding, though previous workshop situations, that I get far more out of working with the musicians when I provide very fluid, open musical ideas, which we can spend the workshop time as composer and musicians together deciphering into something that works for them. Sometimes it takes the form of a number of very detailed, very clearly notated bars of music, lasting only 30 seconds, that can be explored in different forms or repetitions to create an altogether different creature by the end from what it was at the beginning.
This time however, I had less ‘pitch’ material solidified in my mind, but a more comprehensible idea of the sound world that this music might inhabit. This gave rise to my drafting a ‘score’ that consisted of two separate pages; one for the stringed instruments, one for the woodwind / brass instruments. On each of these pages, there were a number of very small phrases, which each of the players could explore and interpret. Due to the nature of the instruments, the woodwind/brass page meant that there would inevitably be three different options to the pitches supplied (all transposing instruments were to play the written pitch), and often there was the option of interpreting the pitch as being written in the treble or bass clef.
With the time that we had, we were able to explore the sketches enough that I was able to discern an inkling of the structure of the piece I’ll carry forward; it’s currently still rumbling round my mind, but I’ll be exploring how to marry a linear structure with the very unstructured improvisatory elements of the material in Workshop 1. It also turns out that everyone in the room could whistle apart from me. And the musicians were more than happy to do so whilst playing. Maybe I need to practice a bit more...