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)

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