So, yesterday I came up to Leeds for the end of the International Opera Conference to do a brief round table with Adam Strickson and Lauren Redhead, another composer whom Adam has collaborated with. The whole conference looked to be absolutely fascinating and I was sorry not to have been able to attend more (I’m am literally doing only the things I absolutely have to do in order to be able to have enough days to compose. One of the hazards of composing to such a tight deadline is that it takes up sooo much time that you hardly listen to any other music (or at least music that isn’t associated/inspiring the opera) or really do anything else at all, and therefore you run the risk of becoming very dull). But I intend to remedy that once this opera is finished...
Anyway, so after the conference Adam and I met for what turned out to be about 3 hours I think. I played the opera through to him rather badly, and then we discussed the Prologue and Interlude, which until then I hadn’t thought about much, other than reading it through several times. Although after I sent off the scores, I arranged the text out on the floor of the kitchen (I literally do spread all the pages out, in order to get a kind of spatial awareness of the structure of a section) and realised I had so many questions that it would be impossible to start until I’d spoken to Adam.
The questions are all about timings basically - local young actors are going to be involved, and will be acting/speaking in these sections. Some parts will be partly improvised perhaps, so obviously this has great implications on the music - most specifically how long it should be. The other problem is that the stages in Leeds and Bridlington are very different sizes, so, sections of these sections will vary in length in each location. This is fairly new territory for me - I have written a semi-improvised score for a radio play, but with this, there was a great deal of silence. The music would come in for 30 seconds say, and then fade out. I want the music of these two sections of the opera to be constant, so composing a kind of music which isn’t totally inane (just endless repetitions) but that is also adjustable, not just in rehearsal but between performances in different venues, is going to be quite a challenge.
I’m sure once I get down to it things will become clear, and I already have quite specific ideas of the types of music that these sections will contain, but there’s always this sense of slight terror before beginning a new big section of work. Anyhow, it was great to talk to Adam because we were able to time each section (which although not exact at least gives you an idea) and to clarify a great number of things. Adam said it was very useful for him too, as he’d been very busy with other projects, and had not really thought about these sections lately, but with rehearsals for the choir and for the actors approaching, it was becoming a necessity.
I will try to blog about this properly, but, briefly, the Prologue is set in 1934, and the Interlude 2010. So, I’m basically planning to use influences from these two years in the music.
Basically (almost) my every waking moment has been concentrated on this opera. So, when I’ve been cleaning up or (on very rare occasions) cooking, I’ve been listening to either music from the 1930’s or from 2010. I downloaded every number 1 hit in 2010 the other day, and have been listening to them on loop (crikey there’s a variety of quality). But I’ve gradually been getting more and more inspiration, so that’s good. Obviously, these sections won’t simply be pastiches, but in the Interlude for instance, the young people come in with their iPods, listening to music, and the instruction is for music with a strong beat in the libretto, so, well, it would be fair to surmise that what they would be listening to. Anyway, more on this when I actually work out what I’m going to write and how I’m going to write it.