Monthly Archives: August 2013

Some thoughts on Degraded Echoes

I should have written this months ago – some comments on the performance of Degraded Echoes. The piece was performed (twice) in April, by Stroma, as part of their programme ‘The Mirror of Time 2‘, at St Mary of the Angels in Wellington. And I’d call it a success.

The players understood it straight away, and gave a very sensitive performance. Thanks, Stroma!

In short, the things I was worried about in my last post turned out pretty well. I take that sense of doubt as a good sign – I think it’s important that each new piece contains something I haven’t done before, and a corresponding element of risk.

The most significant departure in this piece was building it around the existing materials of a Gabrieli motet. Even in their fragmented form, these materials retain some of the harmonic flavour of their original context. The tension between this (and in places the original harmony was deliberately retained), and the sonically-based development going on around them, produced some musically useful tension. There’s also an interesting harmonic ambiguity created where the modal materials are overlaid, but set adrift from their original metrical grid.

And this piece represents another step in my attempts to incorporate aspects of improvisation into the context of composed materials. I’m really enjoying the results of sharing creative control with the performers, asking myself the question ‘how much notation is really needed?’ There’s more I could do in this area – I don’t think I’ve found the answer to the notational question yet. (And of course it’s going to be different in different pieces.) So, something to do in the next piece, whatever that is.

Here’s a recording of the second performance:

There’s also a video, filmed by Chris Watson.

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