Nov 11, 2018

From Satie to Llwyncelyn: Changing Focus

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The beautiful aspect of such a residency is the time allowed to develop ideas, explore new territory and the freedom to shift focus.

 

I knew I wanted to explore alternative musical formats and how we could marry them with live sound (i.e. found recordings or audio-visual elements) for this project. But what recording? The seed for this new work with the amazing Berkeley Ensemble sprouted whist visiting the Tate Modern's exhibition in summer 2018, Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-33. Otto Dix to George Grosz. Cold veracity and unsettling imagery.

 

One work that caught my attention was Satie (The Prelude) of 1925 by Prosper de Troyer (1880 - 1961). A huge painting of composer Erik Satie conducting kabarett and highlighted with a golden halo from a near musician. Glorifying the modernist-maestro status. However aside from its vibrancy and innate musicality, I wanted to create a partner piece for Satie. Erik. A work of music bred directly from Satie that would accompany found video recordings of the composer. An exploration of kabarett, through silent film and a contemporary realisation of the music within.

 

But.

 

(All good stories, have a 'but')

 

The copyright permissions on silent film from this period come with a hefty price (both figuratively and literally). Therefore the focus had to shift. erik (proposed name for the piece) has to be shelved. For now.

 

And where do I turn? To Cardiganshire? Having listened to National Museum Wales' Folk Song Collection every since studying at Cardiff University some years ago, I fell in love with a 1961 recording of 'Y caseg ddu' (The Black Mare) - a song filled with dark humour and a bittersweet reality of hardship and poverty at the core. However the recording (SFNHM Tape 428. Collected 16.11.61 from Bertie Stephens (hound breeder, etc., b. 1900), Llwyncelyn, Llangeitho, Cardiganshire.) has such a wonderfully visceral quality, with Bertie Stephens providing his own percussion by beating on the table next to him. This is a recording that I could not turn my back on. How could I not do something with this?

 

And here I am. After two exciting workshops surrounded by talented composers and superb, open-minded musicians, we know have a starting point having introduced CoDI to Bertie Stephens. Starting this project from a very pure place, just using his voice. And little by little going from his world to my world, which is much more 'cacophonous' and has a more urban sensibility.

 

 

 

I am looking forward to getting to know Bertie more over the coming months.

 

New Posts
  • I've just submitted my final score and parts! The last workshop went really well - it was so interesting to see and hear how everyones works are coming along and to hear the latest version of my piece. I was over the moon with how my piece was sounding, I have made a few changes to my score and can't wait to hear the final product on April 10th!
  • Moving on from the first session I knew I wanted to try something new, and felt comfortable doing this in the safe experimental environment of these workshops. However, this time it didn’t quite work. I tried working on a time - space notation score, something I’ve never tried before. I was excited by the concept of trying this, however it was an uphill battle. The was I had written my score and parts wasn’t as clear as they should have been. Since the workshop, I have tried to make the material work in a different way, using more traditional notation… to realise it still wasn’t giving me the effect I wanted. Also the strong realisation that I compose better being in complete control of my material. So I brought back the material from the first session and my original materials and effectively started again. Time space notation hasn’t defeated me, but I’m already 100% happier with this new draft!
  • At the first CoDI workshop ideas were presented, toyed with and discussed. The challenge now was to shape these formless ideas. However allowing room for further toying and discussing. Difficult. At least it was for me. I tend not to over discuss work or share until I know I have in my hands the beginning of something I can invest in. It's difficult to discuss personal ideas at the best of times but when the ideas are still fragile and underdeveloped (phoetal?) it is even more so. Fortunately the second CoDI meeting was as safe an environment as the first and allowed some exposure without feeling truly helpless. I don't mean to spend these blogs thanking people but I have to acknowledge the great care the Berkeley Ensemble took in dealing with these defenceless skeletal work. At least in my case.

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