A monumental Waste!

Yesterday I was reflecting how, at the tender age of 54 I feel as if I have reached my compositional stride, that I am now able to realise my intentions [and potential] more fully and how I have so much more to ‘give’ musically. Of course, this doesn’t matter to many people, and why should it, but it did make me realise, again, just how neglectful and downright wasteful our society is when it comes to the capabilities and potential of our middle aged and older composers, most of whom, even after very promising starts, are woefully neglected and underrepresented in concerts and promotion in favour of our often obsessive preoccupation with the achievements of the young; frequently to the expense of everything else. I’ve nothing against the young, of course, I was one of them once, nor opportunities for the young, but I’ve seen so many starry eyed young composers do well in their 20s only to find their 30s and 40s an unexpected desert of disappointment, unfulfillment and cold shouldering in favour of, yep, those now younger than them. It’s like watering a plant for a few months [over-watering in many cases] then cutting off the water altogether, so the plant withers and struggles. This, I’m afraid, is the ‘career structure’ that exists for all but the lucky few. I say ‘career structure’ tongue in cheek because nothing of the sort exists. Anyway, a lot to say here but I just wanted to make the point that there is a vast amount of amazing older compositional talent out there that never gets a look in and I see no signs of this changing any time soon. A travesty and monumental waste!

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Marc and the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

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254416_10150216899731190_3769043_nMarc met Max at the Hoy Summer School in 1994 when he was selected as one of ten composers to attend the course. Before this, Marc had no contact with other composers. The course proved to be a revelation and the start of Marc’s career as a composer. After the course Max told Marc that he wanted to support and promote his work. Subsequently Max organised Marc’s first commission with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for the St. Magnus Festival in 1997 which Max conducted. Max went on to conduct a number of Marc’s other orchestral works including PAGAN II and I See Blue with the BBC Philharmonic and Gerwaundhaus Radio Orchestra in Leipzig, Germany. Marc became close friends with Max across the years and spent many weeks with him on Hoy and latterly Sandy on the Orkney Isles.

A number of commentators have defined Marc’s relationship to Max as that of a protege. Although Max never engaged in any form of formal teaching with Marc or inclined him to take up any of his compositional methods or aesthetics, Max was and continues to be a huge supporter of Marc’s work. They continue to share developments and ideas in their compositional practice with Max taking a great interest in Marc’s work with mobile technologies and asynchronous structural approaches in composition and visual art work. Max always remarked he was intrigued by two particular aspects of Marc’s development; how he had learned so much and could compose as he did without any formal training or support in composition or instrumental tuition, and that Marc was an accomplished painter, again without any training.

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“Mr. Yeats has a surprising and I think unique artistic vision. When I first encountered his work I was very aware of a lack of professional training in musical composition and realised, next, that here were developments in the architecture and soundscape of his musical world which were quite unlike anything previously encountered. I presumed this was a direct result of his being forced by an extraordinary creative imagination and energy to find ways of circumnavigating these lacunae in practical musical experience . . . . . . by studying and learning very fast, to a degree of hot intensity I never encountered.” Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Max's comment upon receiving North Sound, an orchestral piece Marc dedicated to Max in 2005 for his 70th birthday.

Max’s comment upon receiving North Sound, an orchestral piece Marc dedicated to Max in 2005 for his 70th birthday.

“Marc Yeats’ musical voice is quite unlike anything else; the music is challenging to both performers and audiences, and very communicative. He produces extraordinary compositions that not only look and sound good, but demonstrate a very high level of academic learning, while being breathtakingly original.” Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

In 2004 Max dedicated his Scottish Chamber Orchestra string orchestra commission, ‘Fall of the Leafe’ “to the Skye composer and painter Marc Yeats”

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Awards, Prizes Commissions and Memberships

Awards, Prizes, Commissions and Bursaries (selected)
1994 Hoy Summer School, SCO, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies – attendance bursary
1994 Scottish Arts Council Summer School and Travel Bursary.
1995 Scottish Arts Council Composer Bursary.
1995 Scottish Arts Council. Attendance fees for the Association of British Orchestras Conference.
1996 Scottish Arts Council Composer Bursary.
1997 Scottish Arts Council Composer Bursary.
1997 Commission – St Magnus Festival – 25 minute orchestral piece for the SCO
1997 Hope Scott Trust Composer Bursary (for 3 years).
1997 Scottish Arts Council Commission for visual art ‘Resound’ project.
1997 Prize winner – Next Millennium International Composers Award, Japan.
1999 The Arts Trust of Scotland – travel expenses for Italian performance.
1999 Commission – BBC – 32 minute orchestral work for the BBC Philharmonic and Kathryn Stott
1999 Commission – The London Sinfonietta – ensemble piece
2001 Commission – Kathryn Stott – solo work for saxophone
2001 Five Islands Project – Colour Songs: The National Lottery Access and Participation Scheme.
2001 Commission – Sarah Watts – solo work
2002 Commission – Hebridean Music Workshops SAC lottery funds – 40 minute ensemble work
2002 Commission – Hebridean Music Workshops – SAC lottery funds – 5 watercolour paintings
2002 Commission – ensemble piece – 175 East, New Zealand
2003 Commission – Lonba, Argentina – ensemble piece
2004 Commission – An Tuireann – Stillness in movement – 60” ensemble piece
2004 HI~Arts – Artist’s creative bursary
2005 Commission – Henri Bok – solo work
2005 Commission – Rotterdam Conservatorium – orchestral work
2005 First prize – international composing competition, WBCC, Rotterdam, Holland
2006 GO EVENTS – grant towards development of website music download facilities
2006 Hope Scott Trust – Funding towards the production costs of the new CD opera – Haar
2007 Commission – Scottish Clarinet Quartet – work for 4 bass clarinets and percussion
2007 Commission – Symposia – work for 4 instrumentalists and digital sound-track
2007 Commission – SCAW – new work for bass clarinet, piano and electronic sound-track
2007 Commission – Trio IAMA – new work for flute, cello and piano
2007 Scottish Arts Council – Professional Development Grant – developing new dance music.
2007 – 2009. An extensive list of commissions specifically referenced in Yeats’ music biography.
2008 Hallé Orchestra with My Blood is as Red as Yours for World Aids Day
2009 Arts Council England – Grants for the Arts – collaborative locomotive GPS music/word fusion.
2009 Kokoro – commission, ‘shadow and the moon’ for sextet.
2009 BBC commission. rhema for harpsichord circa 10mins. In total.
2010 Announced as Composer-in-Association with Manchester Pride
2010 1 of 5 shortlisted composers with PRSF NMA (Turner Prize for music) with SATSYMPH
2011 Commissioned work for Consortium5 recorder quintet for 2011 – ‘the bone eating snot flower’
2011 New work ‘crowded rooms’ for 14 instrumentalists for Leeds University in March 2011
2011 Commissioned work for silent film with Ensemble Amorpha (amorpha_shorts) for 20112011 Commissioned work ‘Eris’ for flute and viola Manchester Pride Music Festival 2011
2011 Commissioned work for a cappella massed amateur choirs ‘sturzstrom’ for 2012 Cultural Olympiad in Dorset (Coastal Voices)
2011 Commissioned work SATSYMPH – on a theme of Hermés
2011 Commissioned work ‘TLOS’ for violin, clarinet and piano – Elektrostatic Festival 2012
2011 Commissioned work ‘Worship of the Oak’ for Aquinas Piano trio and Manchester Pride Music Festival 2012
2012 Commissioned work ‘the magical control of rain’ for piano (Mark Spalding)
2012 Commissioned work ‘the need-fire’ string quartet for the Hillman Quartet and Corsham Festivals
2012 Commissioned work ‘black-bile’ for ensemble – for Thumb Ensemble
2012 Commissioned work ‘sanergia’ for MusicOrba Duo (piano four hands)
2012 Commissioned work ‘pathos’ (solo cello) for Antara Project
2012 Commissioned work ‘strange and artificial echo’ for solo quartertone alto flute for Carla Rees
2012 Commissioned work ‘quarter-sounds’ study in bass clarinet multiphonics for Sarah Watts
2012 Commissioned work ‘from manuscripts of moving song’ string quartet for the Bergersen Quartet
2013 Commissioned work ‘the shape distance’ mixed ensemble – Chamber Cartel US
2013 Commissioned work ‘through woods in riot’ brass quartet – Meridian Brass
2013 Commissioned work ‘corpuscular theory of light’ trio – Markus Wenninger
2013 Commissioned work ‘and cherries all black’ double bass and piano – Geert Callaert
2013 Commissioned work ‘lenten fires’ piano – Geert Callaert
2013 Commissioned work ‘the dog and the wolf’ mixed ensemble – We Are Wolfpack
2013 Commissioned work ‘invoco’ duo – Post-Haste Reed Duo – US
2013 Commissioned work ‘black root’ E flat clarinet – Markus Wenninger
2013 Commissioned work ‘a theft of cold moisture’ flute – Manchester Pride Classical Concert Series
2013 Commissioned work ‘hyran’ viola – Stephen Upshaw – UK
2013 Commissioned work ‘oros’ for 8 voices – Auditiv Vokal Dresden – Germany
2014 Commissioned work ‘vulgar gorgon’ rock ensemble – Clibber Jones Ensemble – US
2014 Commissioned work ‘sculptures in bright blue’ soprano and alto saxophone – KOEK Duo – US
2014 Commissioned work ‘a pathology of line’ bassoon and piano – Geert Callaert – Belgium
2014 Commissioned work ‘streaming’ alto flute – Carlton Vickers – US
2014 Commissioned work ‘new work’ piano, harp and 2 percussion – Chamber Cartel – US
2015 Commissioned work ‘observation 1 [ovington Down] String Quartet Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory- UK
2015 Commissioned work ‘observation 2 [oxey marsh] String Quartet Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory – UK
2015 Commissioned work ‘observation 1.5 [no man’s land] Trio for recorder, violin and cello – Sylvia Hinz and XelmYa Germany
2015 Commissioned work ‘the appointment of life’ – extended male voice, viola and percussion [1] – Carl Theimt Germany
2015 Commissioned work ‘observation 1.7 [longwood warren] Oboe, Flute and Violin – Ben Opie and Inventi Ensemble – AU
2015 Commissioned work ‘observation 1.7.5 Alto Flute, Bassoon and violin – Rarescale UK
2016 Commissioned work ‘william mumler’s spirit photography, piano – The Anatomy of Melancholy Crowd Funding Campaign – UK
2016 Commissioned work ‘burnt axon’, piano, Darinka Todorov – Serbia
2016 Commissioned work ‘Forget-Me-Not, vocal installation – Composer-in-Residence to Yeovil District and Dorchester County Hospitals – RefoundSound -UK
2016 Commissioned work ‘an uncomfortable condition’, flute and string quintet, La Cote Flute Festival – Switzerland
2016 Commissioned work ‘observation 6’, for piccolo, soprano saxophone, piano and percussion – Ensemble Suono Giallo – Italy and US
2016 Commissioned work ‘observation 7’ [gander down] for piccolo, oboe, trumpet, Horn, viola, double bass and percussion [1] – Homophonic Festival – AU
2016 Commissioned work ‘observation 4 [easton bevants] String Quartet Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory [extended series] – UK
2016 Commissioned work ‘observation 5 [perpendicular music] String Quartet Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory [extended series] – UK

Membership and Affiliations
1993 – 1996 Member of the Skye and Lochalsh Arts Council.
1995 – Member of the Performing Right Society.
1995 – Member of Mechanical Copyright Protection Society.
1996 – Nominated to full membership of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain.
1996 – 2005 Board member for An Tuireann Arts Centre.
1997 – Artistic Director for Skye and Lochalsh New Music Festival.
1998 – 2000 Vice Chairman for An Tuireann Arts Centre.
1998 – 2003 Member of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.
2000 – 2005 Chairman of the Board of Directors, An Tuireann Arts Centre.
2006 – 2007 Board member – HI~Arts
2007 – Advisor to the Board of An Tuireann Arts Centre
2009 – Board member of PVA MediaLab, Bridport, Dorset
2009 – 2012 Chair of PVA MediaLab, Bridport, Dorset
2011 – Chair of Reach Dorset – therapeutic arts activities for people with mental health issues.
2011 – Set up SATSYMPH LLP as a founding partner.
2011 – Composer-in-Residence to SATSYMPH
2012 – 2016 Chair of DIVAcontemporary – artist-led arts organisation based in Dorset specialising in sound
2013 – Composer-in-residence to Chamber Cartel [US]
2014 – Composer Curator with Sound and Music
2015 – Composer Advisory Board, Sound and Music
2015 – 2016 Composer-in-residence to The Observatory
2016 – Composer-in-residence to Yeovil District and Dorchester County Hospitals
2016 – Taken on for worldwide management by Noel Music

Current Research :: asynchronous composition

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Asynchronous composition: The context for this research is based in work exploring the transducted, semiotic and hermeneutical relationships between my work as a composer and visual artist.

I’ve always had a strong interest in relationships between the visual [my paintings] and the aural [my compositions] and have eagerly explored any opportunities to delve further into the way this works. Most recently, my role as Composer-in-Residence to the observatory allowed me to explore these relationships in the greatest depth. My imagination was full of impressions and ideas following the residency at Winchester Science Park as part of the observatory experience and I had a large collection of photographs, sketches and videos to draw upon [see Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory 1a]. These were external things – props, if you like – physical outcomes of my research into the site. Alongside these items was a vast soup of internal impressions, noises and intentions – all swimming around in my imagination like a bag of frogs, wriggling and seething and very difficult to hold onto. Together they comprised the evidence that I had experienced the wonderful chalk landscapes around Winchester but the prospect of starting a string quartet from scratch based upon these impressions – breaking the silence of the page with my little marks, dots and lines was a daunting prospect. Bringing something out of nothing always is.

My approach is to break my way in – charge through the door with bluster and see what happens on the other side. It’s a way of breaking the ice – and the fear!
With painting I just throw stuff about with abandon and masses of kinetic energy in the hope that something will emerge. Invariably it does, as this almost violent act serves to break the virginity of the page and take away its power to immobilise; you can stare at the page or manuscript and feel intimidated by its whiteness or emptiness. It takes a mighty leap of faith to start. I take the same view to starting a piece of music, but it’s not so easy to just throw stuff around spontaneously when you’re dealing with notes. Some of my sketches from the residency were precursors to scores, undoubtedly, but they were not the final notation – they remained as frozen kinetics, sound suspended in line, and this sound needed to be reformatted into a more standardised notation to serve my purposes, a process that takes time and unfortunately, time is the enemy of spontaneity – deliberation kills it.

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I have two methods that I hope enable me to develop spontaneity in my compositions baring in mind the limitations around real-time kinetic and gestural capture [I can’t notate as fast as I think but I can draw and paint very fast as there is a direct relationship between my thoughts, translation into movement on paper and the end result of the painting. For music this may apply in forms of graphic notation, which are repurposed forms of drawing, but for more standard forms of notation there is a degree of meticulous scribing that destroys spontaneity of gesture]. I labour this point because my remedy has led me to approach composition in very particular ways.

There are two aspects [at the very least] to the character of a finished piece of music as well as the way it is perceived by performer and audience, again from different perspectives; one is the ‘look and feel’ of the notation itself – what’s on the page, how it was put together, the sounds the notation implies etc., and the manner in which the music is performed or delivered to the listener. It is the combination of these two factors that combine to create the nature of the finished piece. Concept, notation and delivery become the same thing in aural terms – it’s the stuff we listen to! There is of course a whole other layer on top of this around how the music is perceived by the listener, but such reactions are way beyond my control – they remain the responsibility of the listener, so I will leave that well alone.

So, what are these two approaches I use to try and imbue spontaneity into my music?
The first involves me building any new pieces out of materials I already have – a ready made object is as good a term as any. This found object can be for any other instrument[s] and be a solo or ensemble piece. It is almost always a completed piece [as opposed to a sketch]. I choose the pre-existing piece I feel has some of the qualities I’m looking for in the new music I want to create. I then take that material and build onto it, destroy areas of it, distort it, lengthen, shorten, randomise pitches, cut up, amalgamate and mix up the original structures. I execute this process as quickly as I can. I don’t want to think or calculate outcomes at this stage – I’m trying to remove certain aspects of my decision making to allow chance and speed into the process [like the painting and drawing, I am hacking my way through material in a process of assimilation trusting that the rough edges I produce will bring a freshness, unpredictability and kinetic mobility to the notation].

‘observation three’ is an unforeseen extension to the observation string quartets as it brings the two quartets colliding together in antiphonal exchanges separated by the double bass who’s content borrows from, develops and underpins the two quartets it is flanked by. This collision generates entirely new contextual relationships between the material of the quartets. These new contexts are amplified by the double bass material to generate a dense and energetic new work for strings.

Throwing around this found object material ensures that I very quickly get over the blank page syndrome as the page is immediately covered with notation. My processes of transformation move the material I am working away from the original although there is invariably a genetic ghost remaining of the former piece. I don’t mind this at all – it brings a consistency of voice to my compositions, as they are all linked in real terms no matter how destructive the transformative process is. In rather loose terms, this process is a form of transduction – the changing of material from one state to another. I rather like the idea of being a notational alchemist as the processes I use at this stage are intuitive, responsive and reactionary.

This brings me onto the second method I use to engender spontaneity in my work that involves notation and notational process but is even more concerned with performance and delivery techniques – asynchronicity.

The first part of this process involves working up the material for all four instruments of the quartet in isolation and without reference to each other using the material as comes out of the first-stage process. I do this because I want each instrumental voice to feel like an independent entity with its own nature, dynamic, gestural and structural logic and strategic role to play. I don’t view these individual instruments as playing a supporting role in any harmonic sense to any other instrument – such supporting as arises is incidental and a perceived relationship by the listener rather than an intentioned one [in most instances, at least]. Each part has independent tempi, different bar structures and material occurring at different times. All of these ingredients will run similarly through all four parts but not necessarily simultaneously in real time when the parts are stacked vertically in performance. This brings me onto an interesting outcome. As instrumental parts are running at different speeds to each other [this is why the music is asynchronous] I cannot and do not produce scores, that is, I do not attempt to display the vertical alignment of materials in a printed, notational format as it would be a lie, it would attempt to fix something on the page that is not intended to be [so] fixed in real life and real time. A score, whilst being very pretty and very complicated to look at would give the wrong psychological message about what the music is and how it should be approached in performance and sound. A vertical score at some level implies fixed elements – totally fixed, even if the score attempts to mitigate against this using different devices and explanations – the reader will still approach it as a vertically aligned concept which they then have to break to get an impression of what’s really intended. For me this is a bit like putting a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t work and should be avoided. So, I avoid it. No score.

observation 1.5 [no man’s land]: an example of an asynchronous trio.

observation 1: an example of an asynchronous string quartet.

and shapeshifter; an asynchronous ensemble piece:

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the magical control of rain: Morris Pert, Mark Spalding, Geert Callaert and Me.

the magical control of rain: 8 pieces for piano | duration circa 40 minutes | dedicated posthumously to Morris Pert

Premiere: Geert Callaert – Friday 1st. May 2015 at 6.30pm at the National Centre for Early Music, York UK. A full programme can be viewed here, just scroll down to ‘event 4.

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Weather control is the act of manipulating or altering certain aspects of the environment to produce desirable changes in weather. Weather control can have the goal of preventing damaging weather, such as hurricanes or tornados, from occurring; of causing beneficial weather, such as rainfall in an area experiencing drought; or of provoking damaging weather against an enemy or rival, as a tactic of military or economic warfare.

the magical control of rain is posthumously dedicated to the Scottish composer Morris Pert.

Shortly before Morris passed away in 2010 we had a number of very interesting phone calls. Morris also wrote to me and sent me some of his music; as ever, he was keen to share and have feedback. I attach a photo of the last letter he sent me. After having know about and admired each other’s music for many years and only recently, finally meeting via Facebook, our conversations and friendship were sadly cut short.
 
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Morris has a facebook page dedicated to his life and work here.

A few years ago I discovered that the pianist Mark Spalding was a great advocate of Morris Pert’s piano music and has become the prime exponent of this music in the UK. I suggested to Mark that it may be an attractive idea to ask other composers who admired Pert’s music to write some small piano pieces to be performed alongside this music in concerts.
 
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Mark asked me if I would like to write a piece for left hand only. Also, as a number of composers were involved in writing these pieces it was suggested that material from Pert’s Drosten theme (contained within another piano work) was incorporated in some way to bind the compositions together.

This I did. However, I created a piece that I was generally unhappy with and did not deliver it to Mark.

Subsequently, I took the material from the left-hand only piece and decided to experiment with it; transforming, expanding and restructuring the music for both hands. I instantly felt more satisfied with the results. It soon became clear to me that I was not building a small occasional piece composed around Pert’s theme but a substantial 40+ minute, eight-movement work that whilst no longer audibly themed around Pert’s notes, was, never-the-less, imbued with the ghost of these notes as well as the original left-hand music; It was as if the shapes, structures and harmonies of the left-hand piece were binding this new work together.

I finally plucked up courage to tell Mark that the shorter left-hand only piece had failed, but I had written a demanding and substantial work to pay tribute to the music of my friend, Morris Pert.

the magical control of rain is a through-composed complete work. However, each of the eight sections of this piece have been designed as free-standing shorter pieces in their own right, to be performed separately, in varied combinations or ideally as the one complete piano work.
 
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Mark Spalding went on to premiere parts 1 & 2 of the collection in Schotts music room, London in 2013. Unfortunately I was unable to attend.
 
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A little before this I met the pianist Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont, probably on Twitter although the exact circumstance of our meeting illude me just now.
Pierre Arnaud and I admired each other’s work enormously and quickly moved to a point of wanting to work with each other. Pierre-Arnaud asked me to send him a collection of recent piano works so he could see if anything took his fancy. One of the works I sent was the magical control of rain and it was this piece – the biggest collection of pieces I sent, that he was drawn to.

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After several different attempts to secure a performance and recording opportunity for the magical control of rain we received a great offer from the York Spring Festival of New Music. Unfortunately, although we got very close to premiering the work, unforeseen circumstances prevented this performance from coming to fruition.
 

Luckily, my very good friend and amazing pianist, Geert Callaert was able to save the day by stepping in to learn this huge piece of repertoire at the very last minute – in fact, with just 6 weeks till the premiere date!
 
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Geert and I are very excited to present the premiere on Friday 1st. May 2015 at 6.30pm at the National Centre for Early Music, York, UK. A full programme can be viewed here, just scroll down to ‘event 4’.

Geert Callaert:
The virtuoso pianist Geert Callaert took piano classes with Jan Vermeulen at LUCA-Arts campus Lemmensinstituut in Leuven (Belgium), obtaining the highest degrees for piano, chamber music, piano accompaniment, advanced musical analysis, composition and conducting (the special prize Lemmens-Tinel). In 2002 he graduated at the Orpheus institute with a project on the piano music and chamber music with percussion of Stockhausen, Xenakis and Wuorinen. During his formative years he participated in many seminars, among them the Stockhausen courses and seminars at the IRCAM in Paris. He is much sought after as a soloist and chamber musician at home and abroad because of his large and virtuoso repertoire, ranging across the whole gamut from classical to new music.
Callaert is also a composer and a professor of piano music and chamber music for students who want to specialize in contemporary work, as well as a researcher in music, conductor and accompanist working at LUCA-Arts campus Lemmensinstituut (Leuven, Belgium) and the Koninklijk Conservatorium Antwerpen (“School of Arts van de AP Hogeschool”, Antwerpen, Belgium). His performances and music can be found on 15 CDs and 1 DVD. The DVD “Avant-garde” contains two film scores with his music (music for two surreal silent movies, Belgian art). In 2012 he has released with the Academy for New Music Lemmensinstituut LUCA-Arts as a conductor and pianist (Pavane Records) the worldwide sold cd “Mysterious Morning” containing contemporary and virtuoso music for saxophone by Tanada, Wuorinen, De Clercq, Neyrinck and Hurel. Different composers worldwide such as Marc Yeats (UK), Robert Groslot (Belgium), Idin Samimi Mofakham (Iran) and Kee Yong Chong (Singapore) have recently written their most beautiful piano music for him. Geert Callaert is a member of the artistic board and a co-founder of the HERMESensemble and one of the core performers in the ensemble (www.hermesensemble.be).

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Gordon Crosse in conversation :: [4]

Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [4]

Recorded August 2014 with Mark Hewitt and Marc Yeats

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For a full introduction to the interviews please see Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [1]

All the interviews can be found here

At well over an hour, this is the longest interview in the series.

On our last trip to Gordon’s it occurred to Mark that we should capture some of the conversations Gordon, Mark and I had about music and life, to share with others, not least because there is a lot of interest in Gordon’s music and life as a composer and very little information about him in recent years. Mark and I talked about this with Gordon and all were in agreement it would be a good idea to proceed.

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There is nothing academic or staged about these interviews. To avoid any formality we decided to adopt a conversational format, over several glasses of wine with an iPhone voice recorder left on the table – to record. The series of four conversations that followed are unedited; clanks, bangs, rattles, pops, jokes, conversation, laughter and all. They are rough and ready but to their advantage, natural, unselfconscious outpourings of life, music and more.

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As well as recording these ‘in conversations’, I decided to take photos around Gordon’s house by investigating its corners, shadows and rooms to reveal something of the history and stories it tells.
 
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We hope you enjoy them.

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Gordon Crosse in Conversation :: [3]

Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [3]

Recorded August 2014 with Mark Hewitt and Marc Yeats

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For a full introduction to the interviews please see Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [1]

All the interviews can be found here

On our last trip to Gordon’s it occurred to Mark that we should capture some of the conversations Gordon, Mark and I had about music and life, to share with others, not least because there is a lot of interest in Gordon’s music and life as a composer and very little information about him in recent years. Mark and I talked about this with Gordon and all were in agreement it would be a good idea to proceed.

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There is nothing academic or staged about these interviews. To avoid any formality we decided to adopt a conversational format, over several glasses of wine with an iPhone voice recorder left on the table – to record. The series of four conversations that followed are unedited; clanks, bangs, rattles, pops, jokes, conversation, laughter and all. They are rough and ready but to their advantage, natural, unselfconscious outpourings of life, music and more.

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As well as recording these ‘in conversations’, I decided to take photos around Gordon’s house by investigating its corners, shadows and rooms to reveal something of the history and stories it tells.
 
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We hope you enjoy them.

131

Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [2]

Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [2]

Recorded August 2014 with Mark Hewitt and Marc Yeats

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Gordon’s cottage in the seclusion of East Suffolk

 
For a full introduction to the interviews please see Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [1]

On our last trip to Gordon’s it occurred to Mark that we should capture some of the conversations Gordon, Mark and I had about music and life, to share with others, not least because there is a lot of interest in Gordon’s music and life as a composer and very little information about him in recent years. Mark and I talked about this with Gordon and all were in agreement it would be a good idea to proceed.

 
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There is nothing academic or staged about these interviews. To avoid any formality we decided to adopt a conversational format, over several glasses of wine with an iPhone voice recorder left on the table – to record. The series of four conversations that followed are unedited; clanks, bangs, rattles, pops, jokes, conversation, laughter and all. They are rough and ready but to their advantage, natural, unselfconscious outpourings of life, music and more. This episode features Mark eating a packet of crisps very noisily throughout the first 10 minutes of our conversation – please bear with it!

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Gordon preparing a late evening snack after our conversation.

 
As well as recording these ‘in conversations’, I decided to take photos around Gordon’s house by investigating its corners, shadows and rooms to reveal something of the history and stories it tells.

 

We hope you enjoy them.

131

Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [1]

Gordon Crosse :: in conversation [1]

In August 2014, my partner Mark Hewitt and I took what has now become something of an annual pilgrimage to Suffolk to visit our very dear friend and composer, Gordon Crosse.

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Gordon Crosse with Mark Hewitt

 

These visits have proven to be an oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic life. Suffolk is a strange land – somehow very cut off from elsewhere, isolated, almost in a different time-zone all its own.

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Gordon Crosse with Marc Yeats

 

The landscape has always been a favourite; gently rolling agricultural land – lots of arable farming, beautiful villages, amazingly historic, well preserved churches, byways and forgotten villages and a desolate, quietly vast coastline of soft crumbling cliffs, expansive reed-beds or long shingle beaches stretching as far as the eye can see. It is a land of horizons and sky – light and shadows. There’s fragility here, too. The land is constantly under threat from the sea – any trip to the sea makes it clear how low-lying much of the coastal fringe is, and where there are cliffs, they crumble with each gentle caress of the waves for they are made of sand, the legacy of vast, ancient ‘petrified’ estuarine deposits easily eroded by wind, rain and of course, the sea. Here you will find lost villages that have been claimed by the sea and the haunted remnants of houses condemned to destruction as they perch and eventually tumble from their foundations above the cliffs to the beach below. There is great beauty and peace here – great quiet, too; one can walk for days.

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Gordon lives in a secluded cottage near an area of rare, protected heathland, cocooned in a small indentation in the land. There’s no standing on ceremony here; Gordon is very relaxed as are his surroundings, reflecting much of his life, past and present. The house is fascinating in as much as it tells you a great deal about its owner, his life and priorities. You’ll find no fitted carpets, fitted kitchens or matching three-piece suites here – no colour-coded bathroom furniture; the house is like a snowball that has collected its content as it rolled through life.

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Gordon is a wonderful host, too, and we always have so much to talk about; music especially. With three composers in the room, all with different musical aesthetics and many shared passions, conversation flows. On our last trip to Gordon’s it occurred to Mark that we should capture some of this conversation to share with others, not least because there is a lot of interest in Gordon’s music and life as a composer and very little information about him in recent years. Mark and I talked about this with Gordon and all were in agreement it would be a good idea to proceed.

There would be nothing academic or staged about these interviews. To avoid any formality we decided to adopt a conversational format, over several glasses of wine with an iPhone voice recorder left on the table – to record. The series of four conversations that followed are unedited; clanks, bangs, rattles, pops, jokes, conversation, laughter and all. They are rough and ready but to their advantage, natural, unselfconscious outpourings of life, music and more.

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As well as recording these ‘in conversations’, I decided to take photos around Gordon’s house by investigating its corners, shadows and rooms to reveal something of the history and stories it tells.

 

We hope you enjoy them.

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Notation: from drawing to scoring

SEPTEMBER 25, 2012 [updated 14.02.2015]
Notation: from drawing to scoring

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from manuscripts of moving song – score sketch
 


World premiere performance by Zero Theorem: Aisha Orazbayeva [violin], Minsi Yang [violin], Stephen Upshaw [viola], And Patrick Tapio Johnson [cello] as part of DIVAcontemporary’s Sonic Coast [5] at Beaminster School on the 17th January 2015
 
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Structure: When in doubt, draw it!

Finally, after months of thought and deliberation I have arrived at a structural solution for notating the score of my string quartet, now titled ‘from moving manuscripts of song’ (see previous notation related posts).

This title appeals to me especially because of the use of the word ‘manuscripts’ but more especially because of the verb ‘moving’ and noun ‘song’.

The use of ‘moving’ implies a fluidity of execution in live performance that my compositional and notational method aims to capture in the ‘static’ structural representation of the score. ‘Song’ is similarly ideal as each of the quartet voices are indeed ‘singing’ as a choir, independently with their own music, granted, but voices brought together; meshed in, by performing their material ‘framed’ in the same space at the same time as a quartet. The expectation is for an intimate musical relationship between the four players. The nature of this music does not preclude such intimacy but does re-draw the player’s lines of communication and integration, responding to each other spontaneously as the work unfolds and utilising all aspects of their musicality. This relationship is further reinforced by the thematic connectivity within the musical material itself. The fact that the voices are playing independently will be far less apparent when just listening to the music; the outcome will be one of a fusion of interconnected sounds; there will be nothing ‘disconnected’ about it!

As I write in the performance notes on the score:

This music is divided into five sections some of which have sub-sections. The piece should be performed as a continual whole with pauses marking the boundaries of each section.

The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only, with no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the parts other than that which arises spontaneously through performance. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and to this end it is vital that metronome markings are adhered to as accurately as possible.

Bergersen-Quartet-3_00061from manuscripts of moving song – 3 – as ‘transcribed’ from the drawn sketch above

 
There are a number of sections that operate in very close (almost imitative) canon. Again, no exact synchronisation is intended but players should ‘follow’ each other as closely as possible to approximately maintain the displacement of the instruments consequent of their starting order. If metronome markings in these sections are too fast they should be moderated through agreement with each player so that all can perform at roughly the same tempi.

Compositional material is derived from a series of variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. This material is at its most radically diverse in the opening section and at its least differentiated in sections 3 and 5, both of which employ the aforementioned close canons. The piece as a whole could be considered as journeying from flux to greater focus although this statement oversimplifies the actual processes involved.

Bergersen-Quartet-1c_00032from manuscripts of moving song – 1c – as ‘transcribed’ from the drawn sketch above
 

I have produced a score for the quartet which is a compromise between displaying all the musical material for each section or sub-section on the same page whilst avoiding the innumerable complexities of trying to notate each part in vertical alignment as represented in real time. The approach I have taken feels further justified as attempting to accurately pin-down the vertical alignment of the parts would go against the ethos of flexibility I have so carefully calculated in the music.

Bergersen-Quartet-4_00071from manuscripts of moving song – 4 – as ‘transcribed’ from the drawn sketch above
 

As a consequence, the score cannot be read in the conventional manner (seeing all instruments sounding simultaneously in vertical alignment) although the progress of individual instrumental parts can be followed in the score. The performance parts for the quartet are notated as normal.

Programme note from the score:

The information below should not imply any programmatic, emotional or imagery treatment within this piece of entirely abstract music. Both title line and later, entire poem were discovered after the music was conceived. Information is given purely to place the title in its proper context.

‘Let Me Enjoy’ is the first of ‘A Set of Country Songs’, the 18 poems which make up the third section of Time’s Laughingstocks, and themselves begin with the seven poems grouped under the heading ‘At Casterbridge Fair’. It is also the first poem in Gerald Finzi’s Opus 19 set of songs, Till Earth Outwears, and Hardy later included it in his Selected Poems, together with a note suggesting that the subtitle ‘(Minor Key’) might not be needed when the poem appeared separately from the rest of the ‘Country Songs’. It was one of the nine poems Hardy chose for the Library of the Royal Dolls’ House at Windsor.

Hardy revised several lines at different times. In the Cornhill, where the poem first appeared in 1909, line 7 read ‘I will find charm in her loth air’; in the first volume publication, this was amended to ‘I will find charm in her uncare’ (a fascinating example of Hardy’s interest in words beginning with the prefix ‘un–‘, of which there are more than 350 different examples in the poems alone: to ‘uncare’ is surely not the same as merely to ‘not care’), before Hardy settled on the final version. In the third verse, ‘moving song’ was ‘rapturous strain’ in the manuscript, and ‘tender song’ in the Cornhill; perhaps more strikingly, ‘dreams’ in line 10 was ‘souls’ in the manuscript and remained so until Collected Poems in 1928. ‘And some day hence’, in the final verse, was ‘Perhaps some day’ in the manuscript and the first volume publication.

Let Me Enjoy
(Minor Key)

I) Let me enjoy the earth no less
Because the all-enacting Might
That fashioned forth its loveliness
Had other aims than my delight.

II) About my path there flits a Fair,
Who throws me not a word or sign;
I’ll charm me with her ignoring air,
And laud the lips not meant for mine.

III) From manuscripts of moving song
Inspired by scenes and dreams unknown
I’ll pour out raptures that belong
To others, as they were my own.

IV) And some day hence, towards Paradise
And all its blest – if such should be –
I will lift glad, afar-off eyes
Though it contain no place for me.

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