Paper

Paper, performed by Sarah James
Paper, performed by Sarah James at Bastard Assignments: New Teeth 4. Photo by Dimitri Djuric

Paper for cello and video works with sounds suggested by interactions with paper – drawing, erasing, cutting, crumpling, and allowing paper to uncrumple itself – sometimes imitating the sound that would be made, sometimes translating those sounds into more ‘musical’ versions. The piece uses a video score, which is also projected for the audience to see. However, the audience also sees additional material after the cellist has finished playing, allowing for a closer observation of the visuals without the distraction of sound and for the possibility of the audience being able to recreate the sounds associated with the imagery in their imaginations.

The visuals show the composer interacting with paper and follow an increasingly detailed trajectory – from wide-angle shots showing the composer’s workspace down to very close-up footage revealing the texture of the paper used and playing with focus.

There are clear correlations of sound to visuals throughout the piece with sonic/technique relationships sometimes tying together visually disparate imagery.

Paper makes much use of extended techniques and while simple in form poses challenges for the performer of timing and theatrical awareness to pull together the performance and the video so that the cellist onstage is a critical visual element in the piece.

Paper from Bastard Assignments on Vimeo.

dot drip line line

Text score for a performed piece of any duration for any number of performers.

This piece is currently in development. At present, the intention is:

The score for this piece contains a simple text which each performer should use to create an entire notebook of variants which will serve as a handbook of ideas from which to develop a live performance version of the initial score. The notebooks should be displayed (open at a single spread) where the audience can see them at the performance. The variants may be drawn (using wet and/or dry media), collaged, described, included as video or audio of a performance interpretation (performers may want to consider the use of QR codes to include these digitally recorded versions in their books), or any other form or media that comes to mind.

The final performance may take any form the performer chooses. Performances that are created as scores become separate but related works, which can be performed in future by performers who have not undertaken the notebook process.

Current scores developed from dot drip line line are:

Fortune Favours the Brave

Fortune Favours the Brave was written for flautist Jenni Hogan in 2016. The score of the piece is in the form of a Chinese-style handscroll, crafted by the composer out of 4.7 metres of shot silk and 4.5 metres of rice paper pages which contain the handwritten music and notes.

An exploration into ideas about how we choose to accept or reject challenges, Fortune Favours the Brave takes the form of a ritualistic game. After each movement, the flautist lays down her instrument and tosses a coin to determine whether she should play or skip the next section. She then decides whether to accept or reject the coin’s declaration and performs a gesture of acceptance or rejection accordingly. Having done this, she moves the scroll on to the piece she has decided to play (which will be the next section or the one following it) and performs it.

The music contains a range of extended techniques, including multiphonics, deliberate audible breathing, key clicks, tongue rams and various windy tones.

A radio edit version of Fortune Favours the Brave was performed by Jenni Hogan on BBC Radio 3 Hear and Now as part of Bastard Assignments’ live set performed at Southbank Centre. This broadcast also includes a brief interview with the composer. Hear it on iPlayer until 24 October »

Fortune Favours the Brave from Bastard Assignments on Vimeo.

Jenni Hogan performing Fortune Favours the Brave
Jenni Hogan performing Fortune Favours the Brave at Bastard Assignments: New Teeth 1

Photographs by Dimitri Djuric from the premiere performance at Bastard Assignments: NEW TEETH 1.

 

Gasp

A short experimental piece for solo flute, written entirely on a single note, D, Gasp explores tonal variety on the flute by using different types of tonguing, harmonics and breath sounds.

A Tiny Tango

Written for Alun Vaughan for February 2012’s Lucky Dip album project.

Triptych for One

Written for Jennifer Mackerras for February 2012’s Lucky Dip album project. Triptych for One explores a number of extended techniques for recorders, including multiphonics, flutter-tonguing, singing while playing and finger vibrato. It draws its inspiration from a triptych of paintings by Joan Miro, as seen here.

Flit

Written for American flautist Kim Hickey for February 2012’s Lucky Dip project. Flit is a companion piece to Nest, written for Jenni Pinnock, also for Lucky Dip.

The scores for both Flit and Nest are available in the Lucky Dip collection which is included with the free download of the whole album on Bandcamp.

Nest

Written for composer and oboist Jenni Pinnock for February 2012’s Lucky Dip project.

(en)twine

(en)twine was a real learning experience for me. My first work for solo harp – and the first where I really had to think about how a harp actually works (my student work The String Thing included a harp but its part consisted entirely of arpeggiated accompaniment figures). My immense gratitude goes to American harpist Kimberly Howser who patiently answered all my harp questions and checked over the score for playability considerations.

(en)twine‘s salient feature is the series of sudden switches between themes and figures, which intertwine and corrupt one another. In performance, these must each be clearly characterised, making them distinct from one another, while maintaining the structural coherence of the work. The principal themes are a fanfare-like figure (played non-arpeggiato), two related syncopated themes, and arpeggiated passages played close to the soundboard to create a guitar-like sound.

Structurally, this work is similar to Shimmer (which draws its structure from Stravinsky’s broken-lines model in the Symphonies of Wind Instruments) but with fragmentation of the themes – not just juxtaposition – a central factor.

This recording is a MIDI-generated performance.

Pieces of Eight: A frivolity in eight parts

Pieces of Eight was written in response to a ‘call for scores’ from French chamber group Ensemble Décadanse who were embarking on a project entitled 2000 miniatures for the year 2000. They were asking for groups of pieces, each item of which was no longer than 10 seconds in duration.

Taking up the challenge, I viewed each piece as a window onto another – hypothetical – larger piece.

Pieces of Eight exists in several versions by the composer:

  • flute/violin, B-flat clarinet, cello/double bass & piano – the original version written for Ensemble Décadanse
  • soprano saxophone, violin, viola, double bass & piano for Australian group Topology who performed this version at the MiniMax Festival in Brisbane in 20o2
  • string quartet
  • solo piano, premiered by Luca Tieppo at a London Composers Forum concert in 2011
  • solo pedal harp, written for American harpist Shana Norton who recorded it for the Lucky Dip project in 2012.

Additionally, Pieces of Eight was arranged by composer and oboist Catherine Pluygers for the ensemble of the London New Wind Festival who performed it in London in 2009.

The recording here is of the first performance of the piano version, by Italian pianist and composer Luca Tieppo at the London Composers Forum‘s lunchtime concert at St Mary’s, Putney in London, 7 October 2011

Solitary Fanfare

Written for Canadian trombonist Rob MacMillan for February 2012’s Lucky Dip album project.

Solitary Fanfare explores some of the material from my brass quintet (then in-progress) Knots and Mirrors.

Diabolus

Diabolus is a one-minute long piece for unaccompanied violin, written for Conway Kuo’s 15 Minutes of Fame concert in 2011.

It explores the concept of a single piece of music emerging from three simple lines, one of which is an ostinato based on the interval of the tritone, the diabolus in musica, hence the title. I wrote it as a sort of an exercise in composing for a single-line instrument – I’ve had an idea for a piece for unaccompanied cello floating about for some time now, but wasn’t sure how to start, so the three-lines-into-one concept I’ve explored in Diabolus was one way to approach that problem.

I’ve written two articles about the creation of this work which you can read on my blog: