James Weeks director
'Pieces About Art was commissioned in 2014 by EXAUDI vocal ensemble supported by Britten-Pears Foundation and is dedicated to James Weeks, EXAUDI's director, and the singers in the ensemble. The work consists of two movements of roughly equal duration, which in this recording are performed without a break.
In my previous music for voice I had always written or compiled the texts myself but for this work I decided that I wanted to set words that had been written by someone else. A friend drew my attention to a text by a famous American artist, written in 1968; the artist had engraved the words directly onto a steel sculpture. I liked the repetitive and minimal nature of this text and I also liked the fact that the words had been written specially for use on a sculpture. I thought that the text would work well in my piece so in July 2014 I set about trying to get permission from the artist to use the text. After several false starts I ended up contacting the Artists Rights Society in New York, who handle these matters for the artist. Eventually I received an email refusing me permission to use the artists' words. I therefore decided to write a text loosely based on the email received from the Artists Rights Society; this is what I set in ‘Artist Refuses Request’, the first movement of Pieces About Art.
Later that month I had lunch with the writer Michael Bracewell, a friend of many years. He alluded to some of the problems of writing about art. I asked Michael if he would allow me to set a piece of his prose writing and he agreed. A substantial proportion of the words that I set in the second movement of Pieces About Art - which is titled ‘Writing About Art’ - are taken from Michael's essay on the work of the British artist John Stezaker. Originally written for the catalogue of Stezaker's 2011 retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, it is also reproduced in Michael Bracewell's collection of essays 'The Space Between', published by Ridinghouse.
Both movements of Pieces About Art have a narrative about some sort of struggle. In Artist Refuses Request it is about the struggle to get permission to set a text. Words that I have written for Writing About Art, and use alongside extracts from Michael Bracewell's essay on John Stezaker, hint at a loose narrative about the struggle to effectively write about art.'
Laurence Crane, 2017
This piece is part of New Music Biennial 2017. For more information about the project and to download the New Music Biennial album, please visit our project page: http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/new-music-biennial-2017
Pieces about Art is commissioned by EXAUDI.
Produced with the support of partners and funders:
The performance of Pieces About Art was recorded by the BBC and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 at the Albemarle Music Centre, Hull on 1 July 2017.