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iestyn.harding
Jul 23, 2019
In BLOGS
I can’t recall who said that ‘every composition falls short’. While I certainly don’t think every piece is a disappointment to the composer, more often than not they turn out to be different to what you expect or intend - sometimes significantly so! One of the parameters I put in place for my CoDI Buddies piece was to make it musically challenging but not technically so. This resulted in music that had a number of different rhythmic strands which ultimately proved difficult to coordinate in the time allotted. It is the job of the composer to examine and listen intently to the musical material so that it reveals it own destiny and ideal form. The composer must then use skill, experience and imagination to find a way for this to manifest itself in a practicable way. As the notes fade into the Sunday night air it is becoming clear that what was intended to be the opening of Abergavenny Music will now be somewhere near the climax of the movement and the various strands that come together here will need to follow their own individual journeys before being brought to interact. So, will Abergavenny Music turn out differently to what I had envisaged when writing the original application? Absolutely. Without the opportunity to try out these ideas; to understand how they work aurally and musically but also practically for the musicians, this piece would certainly be following a more pre-ordained course. Hopefully, rather than falling short, it will bloom into something more interesting than I could have originally imagined. And, in challenging myself as a composer, I am now more open to other ways of working and to a more collaborative way of engaging with performers. In this sense, it might be argued that this process is already showing itself to be a success! Iestyn Harding ©Silurian Music 2019
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iestyn.harding
Jul 15, 2019
In BLOGS
Llangynidr Mountain: © Andrew Davies 2019 Driving across Llangynidr mountain on an early summer evening really is a breathtaking experience and one, which on a musical level, inspired the feeling and texture of the opening ideas of my piece. I recall this now as I drive across this mountain on my way to an ASO rehearsal where my initial musical thoughts for this piece will be made public. Hearing real people play your music is a truly wonderful experience. Waiting for the first play-through is both immeasurably exciting and a little terrifying. On this occasion the fear is amplified by the fact I know the musical ideas are only half formed and not completely worked through. Being a testing ground, this project, however, affords the luxury of trying things out in a number of ways without fixing on a particular solution. Initially, this has been quite a challenge as I usually have all the major compositional decisions locked into place long before anyone else comes anywhere near looking at a score. One of the areas within which I enjoyed this luxury was exploring how the music responded to a variety of tempi. By this I don’t just mean getting the precise metronome marking from an already narrow range of possibilities. Instead, testing ideas at radically different speeds offers possibilities not just for a single iteration of a particular idea but for the proliferation and variation of the idea throughout the eventual piece. Another area of thought that has been challenged is the selection of the solo instruments. During the first play through of the material, it became apparent that the first entry of the flute soloist didn’t cut through the texture in an audible way. Playing the passage up the octave introduced a level of stress which was undesirable so that switching to piccolo as a solo instrument achieved a preferable result. After the rehearsal, comments I received were all rather lovely, although many people had ideas (mostly wrong!) of what inspired the piece. One interesting comment, “were you inspired by the Symphony of Wind Instruments?” (I wasn’t, by the way!) would have annoyed my in the past. Maybe when a composer is struggling to find their own voice being likened to the sound of someone else can make one a bit tetchy. However, I do feel quite pleased that someone has put my music anywhere near Stravinsky. Anyway, as all this has been processed it is now time to reflect and look at what Abergavenny Music needs next to develop and progress for the next rehearsal. Iestyn Harding © Silurian Music 2019
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iestyn.harding
Jun 26, 2019
In BLOGS
Serious work on Abergavenny Music, the now established title for the CoDI Buddies concertante work for Abergavenny Symphony orchestra, began on 7th April as the Westminster chimes calls the city of London back to slumber and everything passes… This took place on a Sunday afternoon… Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra had just given their Spring concert, conducted by Michael Bell in a memorable performance of Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony. This concert, which also included Barber’s Violin Concerto and the Karelia Overture by Sibelius, really energised a slightly jaded amateur trombonist who had sat through too many rehearsals listening to string and wind players working on their tricky passages. The advantage of playing the trombone and often not having much to do is that you get to really listen to how pieces are put together and to listen to some lovely playing from your colleagues at close quarters. As well as listening, the rehearsals leading to the Spring concert had also allowed me to play ‘fantasy concertos’ with the members of the orchestra and musical ideas began to coalesce. It was apparent early on that I would want to include an important part for the orchestra leader, Helena Todd who has a wonderful sound as well as an engaging musical personality. I had also decided to include a wind instrument as a counter to the violin and soon resolved on adding a flute. Eventually, as work developed,the addition of a horn added a lower voice from a third section of the orchestra. As a composer, I can’t quite decide whether I’m a bit of a dinosaur who persists with pencil (or more usually, ink) and paper or to compose onto computer using notation software. Often I flit between both. Initial ideas are almost always scribbled on some scrap of paper or the back of an envelope before being more extensively worked out further on manuscript or software. This chaotic modus does have the benefit of physical mobility: the scraps being rearranged and reordered as whim and fancy take. The physicality of this creation also has a visual appeal, especially if coloured inks are involved. Usually this experimental play takes some time with procrastination being a powerful filter. I usually won’t commit to a solution until I’m entirely happy - more procrastination or perhaps being overly self-critical? Without particular deadlines this is easily accommodated. However, and especially given the nature of this project, self-critical censoring has been put aside in the spirit of collaboration and discovery. This has been a particularly difficult step to take as I’m usually very guarded about sharing any musical material until its is complete. This being said, although I have shown a few scraps of ideas to designated and potential soloists, there does need to be some sense of structure to allow the orchestra’s time to be used efficiently. A late Easter has meant that the rehearsals available before the summer concert are fewer so there will be some time pressures. I am also waiting for confirmation from Dennis Simons (ASO Music Director) to let me know exactly when the orchestral sessions will be available to me. To this end, it is a relief that the nature of the project is to try things out and develop them before eventually (hopefully?) getting the chance to complete a work for a future concert performance. Iestyn Harding © Silurian Music 2019
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