25 November 2014

'Goodbye, my eyes may shut as I remember how to fly'

my eyes may shut 
as I remember how to fly

These were my last words at Handel House. How?
It was the last musical phrase, of my last commission for them, and it was premièred as the last piece in the last programme of my eyemusic festival.

It was brought to life with poise and poignancy by Tessa Marchington (founder and director of Music in Offices) and Ziazan (Bel Canto specialist).

I'm utterly grateful for their dedication and hard-work, and honoured that they arranged the programme so that opera travelled through time and ended in the present with myself, and some excellent composers including Anna Meredith and James Macmillan.

From breeches...  (La Nozze di Figaro, Mozart)

...to Greek tragedy (L'Orfeo, Monteverdi)

Three ingenious artists turned up on the day and exhibited their work : 

Maya Ramsay took wall-rubbings from Jimi Hendrix's flat, and used manuscript paper so that the woodchip paper created lines which looked like music notation.

'Jimi's Walls'

Marie Wennersten, producer for Swedish Radio flew in and installed tiny speakers in Handel's Bedroom so visitors could faintly hear his dreams.

Then there was Karen Lear, of Karen Lear Flowers and Queen Lear Fashions. 

Karen demonstrated how she had styled Ziazan's costume changes which transported the audience from one era of opera to another, with the addition of just one garment.

And that was just one concert! 
I'd also like to thank the following people... 

Thanks to Sarah Angliss, for her concert of inventions and mastery. It's be a long time since I've had the impulse to listen again to a whole concert immediately after it's finished, but Sarah's programme was so rich, virtuosic and moving, I know there's more to hear with each listen.

I'm so thrilled to be working with Crewdson and Jodie Cartman on folkloric wearable technology – we featured the Sonic-Bonnet, which will be paired with Crewdson's Odd-Box for the Nest Collective this week.

In the second eyemusic concert, Jessica Hynes wowed audiences with her interpretation of Hendrix – she even added her own beautiful lyrics as a tribute to him. Calum Gourlay wrote exquisite arrangements of Duke Ellington's work for bass and lever harp. Bijan Moosavi brought his original songs, in Farsi.

Thank you, Jess, Calum, Bijan, for your inspirational skills and perspectives.

This concert was featured in the EFG London Jazz Festival, as was my eyemusic concert with Oren Marshall. So, thanks are due to Serious, and to Maija Handover of SoundUK for spreading the word.

I particularly enjoyed interpreting historical and modern Augenmusik with Oren. We improvised a response to 'Jimi's Walls', the artwork by Maya Ramsay. Calum Gourlay has suggested an approach of tracing the wall-rubbings to become notation completely, which I'll encourage him to try with Maya next.

I also wrote an interpretation of an Ancient Egyptian manuscript, where music for a sacred singer seems to be notated with a colour-chart.

Perhaps this is a good place to end my blog (the last blog of my last series, of my last year, yadda yadda)....
It seems apt to end this post with the earliest version of eyemusic I could find as I began it with my most recent piece.

It leaves me to thank the Handel House Museum for commissioning and hosting it, along with my residency. Also to thank the teams who helped with film (Andy, Laurie, Phoenix); and radio (Dr Ed Baxter and Francisco Castilla of Resonance FM, Claire Mattison of LSO Soundhub).

Joel Garthwaite, of Bright Ivy, I am indebted to your management skills.

Ms Charmichael, I am so grateful for the surprise-party you generously hosted for our guests.

Mum, thank you for your help and patience assembling the 'House Music' scores and souvenirs.
Special thanks to mum's familiar, who assisted when the printer malfunctioned.

Keep in touch. I'll be at www.cevanne.com
with more residencies, concerts, and eyemusic.

You can order a signed (and paw-printed) copy of 'House Music', if you like...

19 November 2014

House Music, eyemusic – my last commission

As my two-year residency at Handel House draws to a close I look forward to the première of my final commission for soprano and harpsichord – 'House Music'.

It works with the Renaissance principle of Augenmusik – where art was often used to illuminate notated music – and develops it so the relationship is thoroughly structural.

The song is structured by windows cut through the paper, which are assembled to follow the facade of Handel House, in Brook Street, London. Players are to perform what they see on the page before them, including the material revealed beneath by the windows. 

The libretto marks the progress of a career, or life, across four movements – beginning as an outsider looking in to the establishment; then claiming the safer space within; and finally settling upstairs to sleep, and dream of legacy.

I've been so drawn to the concept of eye music, my entire concert series has centred around the theme of 'seeing sound', featuring leading lights in music and film such as Jessica Hynes, Oren Marshall, Sarah Angliss, Crewdson, and Calum Gourlay.

I thought you might find it interesting to see the work-in-progress of my composition, as eyemusic is not necessarily a typical structure... 

I began by cutting the structure into plain manuscript paper, and writing by hand, so I was always aware of my perimeters. This is the first messy sketch.

I could always rely on feline aid and instruction. Each time, she knew which piece of paper was required next, and promptly sat on it.

She even helped me type the music into Sibelius – though her writing for soprano voice was rather ambitious.

I printed the first draft for rehearsal with Ziazan and Tessa at Handel House. 

I cut the windows with a craft knife, and bound the A4 pages with tape. 

I had some edits to make in the score, both creative, and to do with alignment, so I made more drafts for the performers, who kindly gave their feedback, and allowed me to listen to rehearsals.

Then it was time to set it up for printing and cutting with machines (and my mum).

I re-drew the windows with a more 'Georgian shape'. 

I've been numbering and dating these copies, so they are available to buy as souvenirs after the concerts.

Needless to say, this commission took much effort, and discipline, from everyone involved – for which I am so grateful. I've enjoyed creating a strict framework for myself to use, and in doing so making myself accountable for every musical decision, every note.

If you'd like to hear it, I'm afraid the première has been sold-out for weeks, but it will be filmed, so I'll share the footage on www.cevanne.com as soon as I can.

I'm honoured that Ziazan & Tessa Marchington have programmed 'The Fat Lady Has Sung' around my composition. Audiences are looking forward to a time-travelling trip through Bel Canto opera, from pre-Handel to just last month. As it's my last party, everyone's encouraged to dress in their interpretation of 'retro-futurist' fashion, to complement the themes of the concert, and indeed 'House Music' itself.

What will I wear? Why, something Crewdson, Jodie Cartman and I 'threw together' especially for the eyemusic concert with Sarah Angliss : the Sonic Bonnet.

(in fact, much like with House Music, this wearable tech is also a project which required a lot of effort and innovation to pioneer a new technique, but I'll save that for another blog, when I announce my next residency in 2015...)

Sonic Bonnet photo credit Joel Garthwaite, Bright Ivy
Ziazan photo credit Phoenix (in the concert poster)