observation 2 (oxey marsh) 2015
observation two for string quartet | circa 16 minutes in duration | dedicated to John McLeod
“Honoured and proud to be the dedicatee of this extraordinary work by Marc Yeats – one of the UK’s most innovative and gifted composers. Trees are swaying and bending in the breeze in some exotic garden before they start up an amazing conversation. We will never know what they are saying – but that’s what makes the piece so compelling. What? Why? Wherefore? – the enigma of life!”
John McLeod | 26th April 2016
Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory:
4 site-specifically inspired string quartets across four residency locations in two years: 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 will also keep a video diary of the residency 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:
SPUD say: “Marc’s intention is to compose new, experimental, string quartets inspired by the various residency locations is an excellent fit with the ethos of the project and will enhance both its scope and impact as a result of his aim to focus on all four Observatory sites across the two-year period of the project, bringing a new perspective to the single site focus of the other appointed artists-in-residence. As an artist with an established track record in musical composition, Marc is bringing a new element to the project in an artform that is not represented in the artists appointed to date. Year One of the project will engage with the residencies in the Observatory at Winchester Science Centre and Lymington/Keyhaven, Hampshire”.
The opportunity to look in, look out, up, down and around; to explore the work of other artists in residence and use these observations, themes, sounds and discoveries to build my own string quartet compositions, paintings and sketches, site-specifically informed, is a fantastic new opportunity to build work in relation to the Observatory, the land and what it inspires. The four Observatory quartets will be freestanding, independent works forming a much larger-scale composition reflecting my experiences across all four residency locations.
This second residency was based on the salt marshes around Lymington and Keyhaven on the Hampshire coast opposite the Isle of Wight, an area of intricate water channels, seawalls and tidal inlets mostly man made in past centuries. The area is a natural nature reserve and houses a vast range of birdlife. A blog documenting the experience can be found here: http://marc-yeats.co.uk/blog/composer-in-residence-to-the-observatory-2a-lymington-salt-marshes/ My role as Composer-in-Residence is supported by Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts, SPUD and DIVAcontemporary.
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. 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 two; 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 two 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’.
Timecode is not used to imply the use of any kind of click-track in performance or as a straightjacket to flexible performance within the quartet. However, players are required to use a stopwatch individually during the performance to help structure timings, prevent long-term tempo-drift and delivery of their material to achieve an outcome that most closely matches the composer’s structural intention. This is particularly useful after long pauses or where tempo has slipped due to playing under or over the metronome markings and enables the performer to compensate by playing a little faster or slower to ‘catch up’ or extend/cut short pauses and rests as necessary to remain broadly on track with the time code. It is important to start and also complete phrases within and as close to timecode parameters as possible. The time code may be viewed as ‘the invisible conductor’; please adjust your playing speeds continually to align with it as much as possible.
Passages of frenetic playing are required at times. Here, the intention and activity of the material are more important than pitch accuracy. Once again, the timecode should be adhered to as closely as is practical to create the desired effect. As an alternative to personal stopwatch devises on mobile phones, a large, quiet, clearly visible digital stop clock showing seconds, minutes and hours may also be conveniently placed for the quartet to refer to for timecode. 0.8” time code corresponds to rehearsal mark 1 in all the parts. This allows all players to synchronise their stop-watches/timing devises at 0.0″ together before playing commences. In effect, the 8 seconds ‘synchronise watches’ before rehearsal mark 1 represents a countdown into rehearsal mark 1 and the start of the piece.
Note: excluding rehearsal mark 1, rehearsal marks within individual parts do not correspond to each other in any way; they are used to clearly indicate tempo changes within each part. Collective reference points can only be found by the time code [see below].
Timecode has been added to each instrumental part for two further purposes.
1] To help gauge the overall duration of each part during personal practice thereby enabling the performer to get a good ‘feel’ for the various tempi and overall duration of the material.
2] To serve as a collective reference point in any area of the piece during rehearsals where the ensemble can start rehearsing by each player locating the nearest timecode point to the agreed starting point and beginning from there. This is in lieu of rehearsal marks being used for vertical reference and rehearsal purposes in the usual way.
All other performance notes are given in the score.
Printing and page turns This part is formatted for A3 paper to cut down the number of necessary page turns. UK A3 size = 297 x 420mm. The US-alternative to A3 is called Tabloid or Ledger (ANSI B) and measures 11 x 17″ or 279 × 432 mm. Pages turns have been formatted to enable a sliding score showing two pages at once on the music stand with time for page turning at the end of the second page – for example, 4/5 turn, 6/7 turn, 8/9 turn, etc.,