Not the Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, but a request from recorder-player Robert de Bree for a solo piece, for two recorders (played at the same time). It’s for a Christmas concert Robert is giving with a Dutch choir in a historic church – so he’s asked if I can base the piece on the Christmas plainchant Puer Natus, in some way. Robert, who plays various kinds of recorder and oboe, all instruments known for their ability to play just one note at a time, is a frustrated contrapuntalist, who was overjoyed to discover a kind of Sicilian folk music where two pipes are played by the same player, not just as a drone, but playing independent lines. He has learned to play the folk music, but wants to broaden the repertoire.
In my piece the plainchant becomes a kind of pied-piper spell, or rather two kinds, as the soprano and tenor recorders make their way through the melody in very different styles. From time to time they join in a duet…
The concert is in the Oude Pelgrimvaderskerk, Rotterdam on 22 December.
I posted earlier this summer about a new piece I wrote for recorder-player extraordinaire Robert de Bree. The piece is called Ladder of the Escaping Eye (a title from Miró: several of his paintings include a frail, spindly ladder, climbing steeply and improbably out of the picture-space. As in Landscape with rooster above). I had the idea that, as well as being done ‘straight’ as a solo recorder piece, it might also be interesting to make this into a film.
Robert came over and played the piece through in June, in Robinson College Chapel with its wonderful acoustic and glowing light, and I asked filmmaker Adriana Timco to film it for me. Later in the summer I was on holiday in a small village deep in France called Charras, which has a beautiful chateau, whose grounds are full of wonderfully crumbling stone staircases, and I took some video of them.
And later, back home, I had some fun putting them together into a short film. I’m no film maker – in fact I’d never even opened iMovie before – so it’s unashamedly cast in a homespun, rough-and-ready style, and it’s not going to win any prizes for technical finesse. I have no tripod, the video is hand-held and wobbly, the sound is low-resolution, and so on. But it was fun to do, and I do like the light on the stone at Charras, and the rhythmic repetition of steps and shadows. Anyway, see for yourself –
> Ladder of the Escaping Eye
I’ve been writing a piece for recorder-player extraordinaire Robert de Bree, after hearing him at Kettle’s Yard recently. Somehow the ideas came out ladder-shaped, and started getting tangled up with some paintings by Joan Miró, whose currently the subject of an exciting exhibition at Tate Modern. What’s come out is a solo recorder piece of about 6 minutes, which can be performed ‘free-standing’, say, in a recital (we’re planning one for Amsterdam in 2012).
But I’m also tempted to explore the connections with Miró’s paintings, and with images of ladders and steps more generally, by developing the piece into something more multi-media. One plan is to make a film which explores a kind of snakes-and-ladders labyrinth against the sound (and at times, the sight) of Robert playing the piece. This could be viewed online, or screened as part of one of Robert’s live performances. Another idea is to set up some gallery performances which engage with paintings and perform amongst them. The Miró paintings would be fantastic – Tate Modern, are you listening?…