observation 1.8 [easton woods] 2017
observation 1.8 for bass recorder, oboe and violin | 12.30 minutes duration | dedicated to Sylvia Hinz
observation 1.8 is a continuation of a compositional journey began as Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory [a SPUD project] in 2015 during which time I composed 2, site-specifically inspired string quartets. observation 1 and 2 across two residency locations in one year:
Staying with my dear friend, composer Gordon Crosse in Suffolk, I undertook to complete the original Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory vision for a cycle of four observation string quartets through a 10-day residency period in November 2016, following a similar pattern of observations, sketching and painting, photography and video diary keeping, all serving a pre-compositional research. The resultant observation 4 and 5 are studies of the Suffolk coast, in sound; in particular, coastal structures north of Southwold [Easton Bavents for observation 4] and between Easton Bavents and Benacre Broad, gravitating around Covehithe [observation 5, perpendicular music]. Together with observation 1 [from the South Downs National Park area south and east of Winchester] and observation 2 [Lymington Salt Marshes in Hampshire], the four quartets are independent works and, the four movements of a much longer string quartet work lasting around 68 minutes when played together, in cycle, one after the other.
observation 1.8 is an extension of the work undertaken in the composition of the first four quartets as it uses material from observation 5. As such, it is a further study of the coast between Southwold and Covehithe, exploring new and established material in fresh contextual relationships, unexplored in the previous compositions.
As a composer and painter, I have a deeply held interest in the psychological and perceptual/emotional/intuitive associations between these two media and how ideas can be transacted one to the other. As well as creating four new string quartets I have kept a video diary of the residencies and creative experience, make sketches and paintings [on location] of the built and natural landscape features to explore transduction between the physical environment and sound construction transforming [intuitively] visual ideas into notation – landscape into sound. More here.
Asynchronous composition – notes:
The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only with instruments starting at the same time. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end, it is vital that metronome markings and time code are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.
Compositional material is derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. The thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.
The score and parts
I have not produced a score for observation 1.8; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently, there is no definitive performance of the piece. observation 1.8 can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehend by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.