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Archive for December, 2017

And I Have Said Nothing


John Cage, the American avant-garde composer, is reported to have said “I have nothing to say. I am saying it and it is poetry”. OK, it’s rather gnomic, somewhat abstruse but I think it was intended as a provocative paradox, that it is impossible to say nothing.

However, for most of this year I have had little of any interest to say to you and so I have said nothing. Or have I? And that isn’t poetry in any sense. Or is it?

I have written only three posts this year, the last, recounting my ascent to ten thousand feet in an early elemental microlight, was squeezed out in an attempt to retain my rapidly dwindling readership, down from thousands to hundreds. My blog once read in more than seventy different countries. My hope is that you are not terminally disappointed. What is the nature of the relationship between somebody who writes a blog and his/her audience. What are my responsibilities?

So, a resume:
The year began with great activity and promise. As you might have read in the post titled “Achieving the Impossible,” the quite exceptional Mary Dullea recorded the 48 pieces which will constitute my next CD, “Entangled States”, in one weekend. We recorded 4 or 5 different realisations of each piece, 243 takes in all. Quite extraordinary, hence the title of that post. After some time Alex Van Ingen, the Sound Engineer and Producer sent her the necessary files. Mary then had the unenviable task of having to listen to all those realisations several times and then selecting just one which would take its place in the master file. Difficult because often those realisations which had to be rejected were, in different ways, as valuable. The difference was often merely a question of nuance, articulation, one passage of just a few seconds gaining preference,acceptance. This process also took some time as Mary is Director of Performance at Royal Holloway University, makes recordings, performs internationally as a soloist and is a member of the respected Fidelio Trio.

Immediately after the recordings in January I presented Dr. Scott McLaughlin with the scores of the “48”. As you may have read in my post “Work in Progress” December 2015, after visiting me and my playing to him some of the pieces, he generously volunteered to write the sleeve notes. Understandably he wanted to listen to the master files which did not reach him before he commenced preparations for the Autumn term at Leeds University where he is a lecturer in Composition and Music Technology. Because of this unfortunate timing he could not commit his full attention to listening to the pieces and the preparation of the text.

So, at the time of my writing this, Peter Vodden has produced a striking image of sub-atomic particles doing amazing things for the art work. The master files are with Divine Art in Vermont. Mary is contributing to the sleeve notes from her unique perspective as one who realises my Non-Prescriptive music and Scott is, perhaps, during his Christmas vacation, finalising the text having sent me a third draft of his work in progress. As with his contribution to my last CD Piano Sonatas 7, 8 and 9, MSV28544, there are moments of guilded prose. He has, incredibly, managed to explain the connect between “Quantum Entanglement” and “Entangled States” in a succinct, clear manner. Not an easy task. Fortunately, like me, he reads Difficult Science so he is not a stranger to the insane world of quantum physics. Divine Art has put out pre-production publicity, part of which reads “Astonishing masterpiece of contemporary complexity…” which I find to be rather ironic when I always intended the 48 pieces to represent quintessentially the embodiment of the art of simplicity, neither easy to achieve or define, in music. If you wish to read about the convoluted process by which I perhaps achieved my aim, please visit my post “Simplicity” November 9th 2016.

The short pieces, as you can read, did not come easy to me. I am genetically programmed as a composer to favour large scale works as you can hear in my last CD where Sonatas 7 & 9 have a duration of 30 minutes or so and Sonata 8 lasts for 50 minutes. I find the greatest satisfaction in unlocking the potential, in terms of development, from often short motifs. The idea of a second contrasting motif would be just too much, unnecessary. One idea is usually sufficient, providing me with something to say. Thus much of my music could be described as monothematic.

So, perhaps, dare we hope? A Spring release of “Entangled States”. Then I will have something to say and I will say it as I report on the reviewers’ comments as I did with the 3 Sonatas. Let’s hope it’s poetry. I learn much from those who are qualified to comment about what I am attempting to do with respect to my (some say pioneering) Non-Prescriptive techniques, how it is viewed, valued, how it is put into some kind of context,the comparisons, often favourable, made with sometimes notable and established composers. The comments have been universally incredibly kind and generous. For example in a review from Classics Today the Sonatas were awarded 10/10 and 10/10 (blog post November 6th 2014). I am forever mindful, however of how cruel, scathing, how devastatingly ferocious some critics can be when they choose to derogate, maul,the efforts and the hard won reputations of others.
I have not been idle.

I have not been a bystander waiting for things to happen. I have completed, amongst other pieces, Piano Sonata No. 10 and at present I am engaged in a project that I have had in mind for many years. I am enjoying doing this, it’s fun. I will have something to say about it next year. Will it be poetry? As always I have been working within a disciplined routine which has to be kept quite rigid and inflexible. If I know I should be doing something at a certain scheduled time there is some degree of probability that I might just do that. Otherwise things slide. Excuses, reasons are fabricated so as not to engage in The Struggle. And I will always remember that if it had not been for two remarkable people who recognised something of value in my music I would not be writing this blog, it would not exist. You would not be reading this. My emergence into the public domain is entirely due to the intervention of Anthony Goldstone (now sadly deceased) and Stephen Sutton, the incredible, indefatigable CEO of Divine Records who is living proof that cold fusion power has been harnessed successfully.

May I wish you all peace, good health, good fortune in the coming year.

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