Over the last year one of the unexpected surprises of performing live again with musicians is how my music changes with each performance. There is a spontaneity and excitement every time we run though a track, and it is lovely to react in different ways to this musically. Not only am I reacting to other musicians, but also the space we are performing in and the audience – and there is an energy in the room that is very stimulating.
When composing in my studio and the music is ‘flowing’, I often experience a feeling of euphoria and there is satisfaction that something completely original has just been created. The track then generally stays the same until the final music delivery unless I am recording the track with live musicians or adding other parts. It is different to my feeling when performing live.
There is something very satisfying about working with musicians and getting ready for a live performance as I did recently for the National Portrait Gallery. I was commissioned to compose a piece of music based on my own musical interpretation of a portrait by Picasso for Late Shift Extra at the Picasso Portraits exhibition in London. I composed a five movement suite based on Picasso’s painting called Bibi-La-Purée. Here are the first two movements of the suite: Prélude and Arrivée à Paris.
On the day of the event I had a two hour rehearsal with the string players in the afternoon. I had only completed the suite a few days previously and the string parts were delivered from my copyist to the gallery that morning. I was certainly out of my comfort zone. As we started the rehearsal I found myself really listening more and more to the players and responding in different ways on my keyboard. In one of the movements I found that just by playing louder, the players all began to produce a richer and fuller sound.
I also found myself ‘breathing’ with the ebb and flow of phrases in my music – something I had never experienced in a studio setting. I once did a conducting course in Los Angeles with the maestro Lucas Richman and he said to me: “If you do not ‘breathe’ while conducting, then the music dies”- I now know what he means.
That evening we performed the Bibi-La-Purée suite to two audiences and I had lovely comments afterwards. It was beautiful to be performing my own music with wonderful musicians in such a lovely space. And now when I am back in my studio composing for film and television the live performance experience is certainly influencing my compositions in many unexpected ways.
Late Shift Extra: Everything You Can Imagine Is Real
Friday 20 January 2017
Inspired by the exhibition Picasso Portraits, the Gallery becomes a one night artists’ colony featuring music, poetry, performance, art, film and dance. Curated by Martyn Ware for Illustrious.
IN-IS performed Bibi-la-Purée Suite as part of the programme.