Monday, 27 February 2012

Hello Again

Hello, and apologies for the long break in this blog. I had a week off after the workshops, and, after getting over jet lag and now fully back in the swing of composing. I was a bit paranoid about taking a break but have learnt that sometimes one has to force oneself to have some time off from note writing, and the fact that I’m not longer something approaching a compositional corpse that has to bribe myself into composing a few more notes with regular 15 minute excerpts of Have I got News for You on iPlayer thankfully proves me right.

The workshops were really great and I’m so grateful to everybody involved. Jonathan Lo the conductor tirelessly rehearsed the music so that we were able to perform nearly all of it in front of an invited audience at the end of the second day. And I’m really grateful to the singers Natalie Raybould, Lizzie Marshall, Nick Watts and Edd Caine the repetiteur for singing and playing so brilliantly. And of course Adam for everything from writing the words to introducing the performed material to the audience while I tried to make myself as invisible as impossible behind the piano.

I can’t say there were any revelations from the workshop - I had after all heard what I’d written both in my head, and through my own play-throughs at home, many times. I think we changed a couple of word settings. But, after getting back from holiday, a few thoughts have come into my head that to be honest probably would have occurred to me anyway, but may have been hastened along by the workshops. But it was really great to hear my music performed live and I’m so grateful to everybody for working so hard both before and during the workshops.

I’m a bit worried about appearing a bit smug when I say “there were no revelations”. But the simple fact was that there just weren’t, as, when I’m composing, I take so long over it that by the time I do put pen to paper I know exactly what I want. That’s not to say I’m completely averse to changing things - Adam has suggested some cuts for instance and although I’m not currently totally convinced, he may well turn out to be completely right. It was really great to know that the vocal parts were well written though - I’m pretty confident writing for female voices but was slightly worried about the tenor writing. There were no problems at all though, apart from one note which was a bit too low, so, well, that’s reassuring!

Mainly I’ve been thinking about pacing. Looking back on what I’ve written, there are parts which in simple terms take quite a long time in relation to the amount of text set. Which I don’t want to change - just as I go on composing I’m identifying the sections which I want to ‘move’ faster. For instance I’m setting the Atlantic crossing at the moment, and in this scene, I want to in part recreate the panic of Amy and Jim’s crash with fast moving music: this section is not a time for a line of text to be repeated several times in order to create a mood etc.

In addition to the workshops we also held auditions for the singers and musicians. It was really great to finally nail down the exact orchestration for this opera - I’ve been writing in piano score (a necessity due to time limits and the workshop) with fairly-to-extremely accurate ideas as to what instrument will play what - but now I know exactly who is playing, I am starting to think even more orchestrally, which is great. I knew roughly the orchestration right from the beginning, but for instance, having it definitely confirmed that the flautist involved does own an alto flute, does make a difference to how one thinks during composing.

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