Category Archives: Performance

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.

What’s my instrument?

About a week ago, I recorded an interview with Bryan Crump, for his Radio New Zealand Nights show. It’s a regular segment, where Bryan talks to a musician about their instrument, without mentioning the instrument by name. Previous episodes can be found in the Programme Library, on each Friday. It’s an interesting angle, and there are some good conversations there.

Mine was on air tonight, and it’s now online.
(Looks like WordPress won’t let me use the RNZ’s nice-looking embedded player – that’s disappointing.)

When Bryan’s producer first approached me, I was apprehensive, since I’m not particularly active as a performer at the moment. The conversation was more about the instrument than about me, and Bryan led me through some thoughtful questions. I even managed to fit in enough practice to (mostly) get away with playing on the radio.

Leading up to the interview, I was thinking about the role of playing in my musical activity – what is my instrument? A lot of the music I’ve made recently has taken shape in editing software, but I’m not going to argue for that as an instrument. I’ve become aware of an issue with projects such as Domestic Recordings, and collaborative work with Lee Noyes (of which another instalment is forthcoming): while much of the source material is instrumental improvisation, there’s a long process of editing, which distances it from the spontaneous starting point. I’m imagining getting myself into a position where I could play more, and edit less.

(And I’m aware of the need to write a section for my website that covers this stuff – it’s all composed music at the moment.)

There’s also the proxy performance of working closely with performers, which is intensely rewarding when those conditions come about. Recent ventures into open-ended notation seem to help with this – I’m thinking of the rehearsal process of As if to catch the fleeting tail of time, with Dylan Lardelli and friends, and the collaborative process with the New Zealand Clarinet Quartet, which led to The stars like years. I’m hoping to extend this approach in a piece I’m working on over the Summer. (And also to document some of the process here, once it’s under way.)

And right now, I’d like to back up writing about these things with actually doing some of them.