In April I was awarded a grant from the Arts Council Covid Emergency Fund, to record, mix and master an album of music for multiple violins. The purpose of this grant was to provide support to artists whose concerts, or projects had been cancelled due to the lockdown/pandemic. For me this meant that after concerts in Madrid, Canterbury and at the Tectonics festival in Glasgow had been cancelled for both my organ and live electronics duet, and for my Trio CZW, I decided to plan out what a violin album could be like. My initial plan was to create an album of improvisations, and include a live electronics component,. What I ended up deciding, drawing on my experiences of having written for Alwynne Pritchard and Simone Keller, was to write a set of postcard pieces where the improvisation, if it could even be called that, was related to notation in some way.
A further experience that fed into this project was working with Trio CZW, which comprises Paul Cheneour (flutes), Maureen Wolloshin (oboe), and myself on the violin. I have worked with this trio as a space to try out ideas for improvisation, discuss how to communicate them clearly, and find out which ideas do not work. This project is both a laboratory and an ensemble that plans and performs concerts. In one rehearsal I brought along a short 5 minute postcard for us to try out to work on & record. The image can be seen below and the result can be heard here, but this initial attempt outlined a possible practice research project.
Given everything I’ve said, one of the immediate weaknesses is how specific this score is to the instruments playing, especially since many of the most famous postcard pieces are mostly transferable to many, if not all instruments. However, the postcard is merely a concise format, or an invitation for a notation, and clearly specificity of instrument isn’t an issue. Composing this series reminds me of Mathias Spahlinger’s concept pieces called vorschläge (1993). Most of Spahlinger’s works in this collection are text, or instructions pieces, and are written for open instrumentation.
I had initially considered creating an album for violin and electronics, however the more I worked on this the more it became apparent that this album should be an album for multiple violins, without any, or too much alteration, recorded by myself, and mixed and mastered at home, during the lockdown. Much of the work in this project has had suggested further work, & further ways of working with this concise, or miniature format. This has encouraged an iterative practice of working out non instrument-specific concepts that are then realised, and where the realisation (or translation) process itself becomes a part of the composition of these works.