Partially Screaming + Skirting

It can be a bit nerve wracking when videos of performances crop up on the internet.  But sometimes I’m really pleased.  Here are a couple.

The Vale of Glamorgan Festival commissioned me to compose a piece for their 2013 festival.  Their artistic director John Metcalf told me a little about the festival, the thread running through it in 2013 and suggested that I wrote a percussion piece for the five performers from Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon.  I visited them in Paris, we got on well and they tried a few things out.  I then went about composing a work for them sort of based on obsession and compulsion.  Two of my favourite things.

Partially Screaming requires great stamina.  In one sense it is about stamina, team work and constant striving.   It inhabits a world between comfortable persistence and edgy exhilaration, hence there is little time to rest throughout the piece and rhythmic precision is vital.   

The music starts with all players in unison.  As the music unfolds, the sound world gradually expands, other instruments are added and polyphony increases.  The constant thread of unison remains in the background but never fully returns and a contrapuntal machine is created instead but with the same edgy, obsessive character mixed with controlled euphoria.

Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon have performed the piece many times now.  They are superb musicians and I’m very grateful for the amount of work they put in on the music and the attention to detail.  Since then they themselves have commissioned another work, People, which involves a choir alongside their percussion.  That piece is yet to be recorded, but it has a similarly obsessive quality too. The lyrics outline exponential global population growth from when we passed 1 billion people in 1804, 2 billion in 1927 and on through to the current 8 billionish people.

Skirting is a work for solo guitar.  I’m not a guitarist.  And despite it being one of the most popular instruments around, it is very idiosyncratic.  There are things it cannot do.  Unfortunately I seemed to be drawn to putting as many of those particular things in to this piece as possible.   It was commissioned by the International Guitar Festival in 2001 and premiered by Tom Kerstens there.  Since then I have revised it a little, made it a more sensible proposition and been fortunate enough to have advice most recently from the guitarist David Harvey who helped in the final revision.

But prior to that revision David alerted me to this youtube performance by the young guitarist Kevin Loh.   I’d never heard of Kevin Loh.  I think he’s done a fabulous job on a rhythmically and technically difficult piece and he carries such poise all the way through from the bare opening to the more testing and contrapuntal music later on.