Digital Discoveries
Recordings from the British Music Collection

Thomas Butler interviews composers Chris Mayo and Shiori Usui on Digital Discoveries

 

Chris Mayo – Composer-in-Residence at Manchester Camerata

Laurence Crane: See Our Lake (on volume 1)

TB: Why have you chosen this piece? What did you find compelling about this music and why should I listen to it?

CM: I know (and love) a lot of Laurence Crane’s music, but this wasn’t a piece I knew, so when I saw it on the list, I was immediately interested in getting acquainted with another work by this fantastic composer. There is so much that I find compelling about this music it’s difficult to know where to start. Laurence’s music is ‘essential’ by which I mean both that it should be required listening for the whole world population and also that exist only on the merest essence of musical material. It is brilliantly reductive. I’m tempted to say that everything is stripped away and only the most vital musical skeleton remains, but in fact even many of these most vital elements are missing. His music sometimes seems like a sort of shadow, a halo of dust that might remain after a piece of music was snatched away from its comfortable resting place. See Our Lake is beautiful, lush, consonant, but it is not music which revels in its own beauty. It’s not (though it so easily could be) sentimental or nostalgic. It’s seems a matter-of-fact coincidence that the music is lush and beautiful only because, in Laurence’s conception of the world, when layer-upon-layer of surface detail are scrubbed away, at its core, music is a consonant and beautiful thing.

TB: As a listener, how does the piece unfold? Are there any surprises along the way? 

CM: It’s so interesting to talk about this piece in terms of surprises. In one sense, there is absolutely nothing surprising in this work. No sudden reversals, no unexpected changes, to borrow film terminology, no big reveal. But, it’s a piece that so neatly and narrowly defines its language that, actually, (maybe) everything about it is surprising. Every single change of harmony, every addition of a new pitch, every introduction of a slight new register comes to feel like a monumental change that shakes the very foundations of the work. The programme note says: “Contrast between the two movements is avoided…The quartet of wind and strings is always used as a homogenous single unit; the vibraphone is contrasted against this in the first movement and integrated with it in the second.” It avoids contrast, sure, but in the context of this piece, the vibraphone’s change of rôle from oppositional partner in a dialogue to co-operative member of a monologue reads as a huge dramatic shift. So I guess it depends what you mean by surprise. Or what you find surprising.

Read the complete blog on the Sound and Music website

 

Shiori Usui – Composer-in-Residence at BCMG  

Richard Baker, Huiusmodi sunt omnia (on volume 1)

TB: Why have you chosen this piece? What did you find compelling about this music and why should I listen to it?

SU: It has been difficult to choose only one piece. I liked the pieces such as “unassigned” by James Saunders and “submarine revisited” by Evelyn Ficarra as well, for example. I enjoyed listening to all three music mentioned above, and I enjoyed each of them in different ways.

However, I chose Huiusmodi sunt omnia by Richard Baker for this occasion. The piece Huiusmodi sunt omnia evoked my attention because of the tension between the solemn emptiness and the crunchiness of the dissonant harmonies together with the dark colour of the female voice.

I don’t wish to force anyone to listen to the piece I chose because listening is a very personal experience, and therefore I cannot tell you why you should listen to it. But if you like the kind of things described above, or better, if you are curious, perhaps you might want to give it a try.

TB: As a listener, how does the piece unfold? Are there any surprises along the way?

SU: You are invited to the world of quiet and solemn emptiness of dark female voice with the punctuations of crunchy tasty cluster harmony. The intensity is intimately woven throughout the piece (rather like breathing) but perhaps never revealing itself fully. The ending sounded a little abrupt to me, and that was a little surprise (maybe the recording?).

Read the complete blog on the Sound and Music website

 

 

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Thomas Butler is currently Sound and Music’s Embedded Composer-in-Residence with Red Note Ensemble. He also produces and presents the ‘I’ll Cadence When I Die’ podcast series through which he interviews today’s most interesting composers working in Scotland.

For Classical Music magazine Thomas Butler asked some of today’s exciting emerging composers which of the Digital Discoveries mean something to them, and why we should all listen in, then we challenged him to make his own selection.

 

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