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Moon (6 voices)

The text for 'Moon' originates from poetry from Icelandic skaldsaga (this one by Cormac The Skald), which is typified by the interspersing of prose with poetry as a method of more graphic story-telling. There is therefore a tension between the overall story unfolding and the timescape of the poem itself and the narrative therein.

This tension between so called narrative-time and composition-time was something I wanted to explore in the vocal writing. ‘Narrative-time’ I think of as the pace of the storytelling, or illustration in this case, and ‘composition-time’ I see as the essence of the music-making involved. Improvisation as a form of ‘composition-time’ I see as different to fixed metred time – time becomes less mobile and seems to ebb and flow. Thus, in this piece I went with a lack of metre, bar lines and alignment, as I wanted the score to become almost a graphic prompt for the singers – each operating in their own stream of consciousness with a quasi-improvised feel like the poetry of the Icelandic skaldsaga.

The idea of old stories and objects led me to the idea of a tapestry, and whether the texture of a tapestry (interwoven threads) could be recreated sonically (with interweaving solo voices). The words themselves were central to the structure of the work, and I enjoyed allowing the feel of each phrase to dictate the overall sound of each section, worrying less about meaning and more about feeling.

They don't bounce, they skim (solo bass clarinet)

During lockdown (when this piece was written), I spent quite a lot of time thinking about the concept of time and how it is experienced. The composer Jurg Frey talks of two different forms of musical time: one that exists as a pathway and one that exists as space. I tried to visualise a structure whereby both static and dynamic time could coexist, and came up with a sketch of a skimming stone.

There is a trajectory set by the stone, but a stasis implied by the separate contact points with the water. Each contact with the water creates an area of space that expands but is not teleological. I thought of these contact points as ‘points of origin’ for individual areas of expansion and interference with the ripples of other points of origin. Using this sketch as a starting point I then wrote three motifs as ‘points of origin’, which could then go through different forms of transformation. I did not want the motifs to ‘develop’ in a linear sense within the piece, but rather wanted them to expand like concentric ripples.

Overall the piece is governed by expression, and working closely with clarinetist Vicky Wright was intrinsic to the process of writing. Vicky's interpretation of initial sketches really informed the direction of the piece as a whole. I wanted the bass clarinet to act as a physical extension of the voice to allow it to communicate more directly.

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