The Next Wave project has been a fantastic experience for me. The London Sinfonietta are, of course, an outstanding ensemble: it was an immense privilege for me to hear them play my work. Above all, Next Wave has allowed me to develop as a composer in ways that would not otherwise have been possible. I’ve learnt a great deal – much of it the hard way! But the opportunity to push the boat out and risk making mistakes is priceless. The important thing is to learn the right lessons through those mistakes, and hopefully deliver a good end product.
Workshop 1 provided a chance to experiment in a way that one cannot normally do. In my case, the original plan was to write a spatial piece, with two groups of 8 players at either side of the hall, but only one conductor. My initial objective was to test a claim I’d read in an article by Henry Brant – that spatially separated groups can (apparently!) allow a composer to pile on greater textural complexity than would otherwise be possible. In practice, although the London Sinfonietta’s playing was of course first-rate, most of my spatial experiments failed: only the very clearest textures seemed to work spatially as I’d hoped, from the listener’s perspective.
Following Workshop 1, after two or three weeks of trying out various alternative spatial arrangements and ideas, I finally decided to abandon the spatial experiment. Given the need to write a coherent piece for the second phase of the project, this seemed the most sensible move. The resulting work, Velvet Revolution, tries some new things harmonically – as all of my music does – but beyond that, there is no experimentation. Some of the initial melodic, motivic and harmonic ideas from the original version remain in one form or another, but of the 9 minutes or so I’d written for the first workshop, not a single bar made it to the final piece!
It’s extraordinary to think that Garry Walker and London Sinfonietta were able to produce a very strong recording of my work, in the space of 90 minutes, with effectively no prior rehearsal at all. That’s a testament to their extremely high standards. David Lefeber’s judicious, expert editing was of course a crucial factor. I learned a fair amount about what does and doesn’t work during the editing process, and I must thank David for his patience.
Throughout the project, David Horne has been a brilliant mentor – giving very insightful, useful feedback and advice on my numerous drafts. He was very encouraging and positive throughout, and fully supportive of my eventual decision to abandon the spatial experiment. Indeed, David was quick to suggest that possibility to me, immediately following Workshop 1; in the end, I felt that was indeed the best way forward.
I am extremely grateful to David Horne, Garry Walker, David Lefeber, all of the performers, Susanna Eastburn, Hannah Bujic, Nicole Rochman, and above all, Sound and Music and NMC for creating this excellent opportunity. I very much hope that Next Wave will continue to flourish for many years, and that finances will allow this to happen. There’s an obvious need for this kind of project. It’s been a pleasure, and a privilege to be involved. I recommend the Next Wave programme very highly to any student composer!
Listen to an extract from Barnaby's Velvet Revolution
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Barnaby's Top 10 Tracks
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Velvet Revolution is available on the Next Wave album featuring all 12 new works from the Next Wave composers.
1. Weiwei Jin: Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
2. Maya Verlaak: All Verlaak's Music is Alouette
3. Eugene Birman: The winter desert of my silences
4. Edwin Hillier: hibeh
5. Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI
6. Georgia Rodgers: partial filter
7. Ben Gaunt: Filling Rubin's Vase
8. Michael Cutting: I AM A STRANGE LOOP III
9. Oliver Christophe Leith: hand coloured
10. Barnaby Hollington: Velvet Revolution
11. Paul McGuire: Panels
12. Ryan Latimer: Moby Dick
Artists: Loré Lixenberg, Sarah Nicolls, Oren Marshall, Sound Intermedia, London Sinfonietta, Garry Walker
Download the album here.