Creative Pact 2015


Results and reflections - Creative Pact 2015

September has come and gone, and so has my Creative Pact 2015! For those who have missed my (somewhat intermittent) posts, I set myself the challenge of scribbling some new music every day for the course of the month. Why? Well, August seemed to be a bit taken up with tidying up scores, redrafting and refining, and the final stages of six separate pieces. After so much work on the tail ends of pieces, I felt the need to be creative again whilst not worrying about the final destination for the music. Lots of snippets and ideas was the aim. The whole idea of a creative pact is to work on a project every day; my working patterns mean that I do normally work every day, but some of these can get swallowed up in engraving, admin or proposals. The scribbles idea would ensure I focused briefly on those initial sparks of creativity each day. Obviously it's hard to categorise some of the scribbles, but a rough count of the scribbles is as follows: 3 scribbles for choir 3 ideas on a treble clef 1 idea that is specifically woodwind based 2 ideas that are lines for bass instruments 2 ideas specifically for violin or viola 13 ideas that have been written on a grand stave (not that they all necessarily need to remain there; some of these are specifically piano, but some may be harp or marimba or similar!). That totals 24 ideas! Some of the days were spent extending ideas from previous days, and some were taken up with the final finishing touches to a commission. Overall I am very pleased. Some of the ideas are only a few bars, and some are a whole page. Either way, I managed to write something new most days which is definitely a success! What's next? Well, this month I need to return to some previous projects for redrafts, and return to my list of commissions and projects. However, I intend to spend time reviewing each of the scribbles from this month and trying to see which I could develop into a longer piece. Tonight, for example, I've spent time on the woodwind idea and on one of the piano ones, which I'm hoping to extend for future piano collection. Creative Pact 2015

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CP2015 - Playing with lines

Although my aim throughout my creative pact is to look at solo pieces, I've had a couple of texts floating about that I have been intending to set for some time. Over the last couple of days some ideas have appeared for those, so I've played around with them - though, sticking true to the creative pact vibe, I've been working on just the melody lines. Or trying to, at least - difficult when the harmonising lines seem to appear naturally! To contrast against these, I've also been playing around with bass lines, and have a couple of scribbles revolving around those too. An important element of this month was to re-evaluate what's important to me when it comes to the music I write, and to assess how I present myself as a composer when taking that into account. While expanding a couple of the scribbles it has been clearer than ever that I love handing part of the decision making process when it comes to precise articulation, dynamics and timings over to the performer. Sections seem to switch between highly metered and rhythmic to very free and relaxed, and it's in these sections that I sometimes feel uneasy dictating the length. Bar lines often disappear, pauses appear, and rubato seems to be the word of the day. I've realised that neither my love of bizarre time signatures nor my willingness to hand over decisions to the performer are conveyed by my standard biography, so that's something I'm working on at the moment. As the end of the month approaches, it's becoming more and more obvious that there won't be any finished scribbles to share musically. However, I'll show them all in some form. My aim will be to continue expanding them over the rest of the year alongside my other upcoming projects - and share them when they reach presentable forms.

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CP2015: Nature and trees

I took a day off of writing scribbles to spend time with lots of fabric! I've finally made some musical curtains for my studio - desperately needed now the weather's getting colder and I'm working in there later. Last autumn/winter I didn't spend much time in there from October to January, so missed the worst of the cold weather - but wanted to be prepared this year! Over the last couple of days I've been thinking more about what I write about - or, to be more correct, what I have written about in the past. Nature plays a leading role, so I thought I'd deliberately focus a couple of scribbles on that - namely on some particularly stunning trees I've taken photos of over the past few months. One is currently a solo line, and the other is a piano-like sketch.

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CP2015: Days 13 and 14

Yesterday I had possibly my most compositionally creative day of my creative pact yet. A page full of sketches and ideas, originally intended to be for 'woodwind' but now most definitely for oboe. I also managed to potentially set a couple of lines from a poem I've had floating around for a while (about a year!), destined to be an unaccompanied SATB piece eventually. Today has seen another productive day, this time with a two scribbles for piano, marimba or harp. One I think will remain as piano, but the other is beginning to sound more tempting mentally on marimba. We'll have to see where they head! Today I also found time to watch/listen to Tansy Davies' new work at this year's Proms, Re-greening, which I enjoyed, and also listened to some Nielsen. I found both very therapeutic on a grey Monday morning, and also quite a hark back to my days as a postgraduate student, where we seemed to listen to a lot of Nielsen (a favourite of one of our lecturers), and Tansy Davies was the external examiner for my recital.

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CP2015: Days 3, 5 and 6

Apologies for the lack of updates - it's been rather busy few days! Day three was a productive day, with a couple of scribbles - one bassy serialist idea, with a time signature alternating between 7/8 and 4/4 - about 12 bars in length. I'm not normally a fan of alternating time signatures so this idea surprised me somewhat. I'm also not the hugest fan of using serialist techniques, but I have a piano piece on the go which uses some of the principles and thought I'd apply it to a melody line for a solo instrument. The second scribble this day was much more traditional for me, with a running bass line full of major second intervals and a soaring melody over the top. The contrast between the two ideas on this day was impressive! Day four was rather unproductive composition wise. A rather unexpected turn of events ended up with some rather odd solo late night driving. I'm pondering a few ideas inspired by the journey so we'll see what they turn into. Day five was one conducted on about three and a half hours sleep (see bizarre late night driving on day four!). As well as playing with a couple of driving inspired ideas, I also played with chords made up of major third intervals. The prominence of the major second as a key preference of mine is obvious, so I thought I should use this Creative Pact scribbling project to experiment with other intervals. Created some interesting chords, which I may or may not be able to incorporate elsewhere. Day six - today - and I'm up to speed! Tonight I started my scribbling time with playing some 20th century piano works. I really need to do this more often - both listening and playing - but in particular playing as it almost feels as if my fingers are decoding the language. Even as someone who has studied music and composition for years, I don't mind admitting that at first glance I find some music harder to appreciate than others. However, my appreciation grows considerably quicker if I actually play something (be it on the piano or as part of an ensemble) than if I'm purely listening. After sight reading through a couple of pieces and spending some time with some old familiar ones, I wrote two scribbles tonight. One is a short piano (harp? Probably not marimba) sketch which might perfectly fit a piece I've been meaning to write for a year or so, but have never quite found the right idea. The second is a continuation of my playing with intervals - this time major fourths and fifths. I quite like experimenting with rules and limiting notes in pieces; the first movement of my string quartet works with a three octave scale which was great fun to write. This little scribble had the rules that each note in a phrase must be followed by a note that is either a perfect fourth or perfect fifth above or below it. As well as general experimentation, this partly came from the fact that the opening of my piece Bells in the Rain features three descending notes, the second and third a perfect fourth lower than the previous ones, and it's an opening I love. After tomorrow, week one of this Creative pact will be complete - and hopefully I will have finished some scores I'm currently tidying up, giving me more time to work on the project. As well as aiming for at least one new scribble a day I'm hoping to go back and develop some of them into slightly longer ideas/pieces.

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CP2015: Day 2 - Seconds, fifths and instruments

Tonight's CP time has once again been somewhat absorbed by other pieces, and was also scuppered by a non-sleeping little boy. I try to be kind to my neighbours and not play loud instruments past 9pm (earlier if I can), which meant I couldn't do much improvising or general playing tonight. I did, however, manage to find the time to improvise a short sketch based around major seconds and major fifths. I've had a bit of an obsession with major seconds for some time - in fact, the number present in the last couple of scores I produced was something that inspired me to spend time scribbling - to see if there are any other intervals or musical concepts that are quite as present in my work, or that could become so. This is only a short sketch (less than 10 bars), but it feels as if there are plenty of directions it could develop in. I also made a few decisions about the scope of this project today. I like having material to inspire me, so spend some time thinking about images and pictures I could use as material for sketches in some shape or form. I also put out feelers on Twitter to see if there were any performers who would be interested in performing some sketchy scribbles. There was an overwhelmingly positive response, and I've now got a few instruments to add to the list I already had in my head to attempt to write sketchy scribbles for over the course of the month. This makes it even more exciting for me - knowing there are performers out there interested in having a look at them.

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CP2015: Day 1 - Scribbles for strings

September 1st - away we go! Tonight I've had to spend time tidying up a couple of scores, but beforehand I set aside a chunk of time to start working on my Creative Pact project. After seeing a stunning rainbow broken up by a willow earlier today, I expected the majority of my scribblings tonight would be about that. A few were, potentially for 'cello or bassoon - however, they were then overtaken for something quite different, potentially for solo violin. A powerful yet short snippet in G minor ish, which sounds like it could be an interesting introduction to a piece, with fragments of where it could go in it. Listening to more music and finding inspirational images are also important parts of my creative pact this year. I've started a collection of images on Pinterest (which I'll share later!). The listening will have to wait until I've finished the current batch of scores I'm tidying over the next few days.

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Creative Pact 2015: The idea

A few years ago (2011!) I took part in CreativePact - documenting the creation of new work over the course of a month. The aim is to document every day if possible. This year, I've decided to take part, but with a different slant to before. When I last took part in CreativePact, finding time to write every day was a challenge in itself. However, now I have two children the evening is when I do the majority of my writing, and I spend a good couple of hours every evening notating the ideas I've had running through my head all day. I've got into a good routine, and it's rare I miss an evening. So if I normally work every evening, how will I make this CreativePact different? Over the next month, I want to spend some time dabbling. I want to listen to music, look at art, and scribble lots. I want to think about who I am as a composer. What will my creative output be? This one's more tricky, as the aim is not to be working on any huge pieces, but to experiment and dabble and dip in and out of things. Instead of working on one piece, I want to create lots of mini sketches- each only for solo instruments (potentially with accompaniment). They may just be a few bars, and they may not be complete, but the idea is to end up with lots of very different ideas - some I love, some I might not love so much - with varied sources of inspiration. Hopefully some of them will be seeds that will end up growing into full pieces (potentially after the CreativePact is over).

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