Around the world juggler.

Posted on Friday, November 11, 2011



I'm thankful that I seem to contradict the male stereotype of only being able to think about one thing at a time. Along side all the crazy stuff that routinely happens in my 'real' life, in my composing life I've got four pretty major projects all on the boil at the moment. Normally this would be a good time for blind panic, but somehow I feel remarkably on top of the situation.

By far the biggest committment is The Firework Maker's Daughter. This will be a full evening of music. There will definitely be a tour in spring '13, and we are still finalising whether there will be a run in Christmas '12 which hangs on a chain of other groups and committments and possibilities. Either way I plan to finish it in the early autumn of '12 and we'll probably workshop an almost finished version in May just to iron out any last kinks. Earlier in the year I set myself the target of finishing the first half in sketch form by the end of this year, and I seem to be well on the way to doing that, with just one small final scene to go. The project is exciting me more and more, I just love the story and the colours. As I write I have a friend's old saucepan hanging from the ceiling which helps remind me of the junk yard percussion idea I'm aiming to bring to at least parts of the opera. The piece also seems to be developing a fairly massive marimba part. I would love to find a chromatic marimba that has the more 'ethnic' colour of a balaphone or folk xyophone. If anyone knows of anything like that please let me know!

What else? Well there's the piece for the Silk Road Project which emerged in a sudden flurry of activity over a period of just a couple of weeks. It's diverged a bit from the direction it was taking during the period I gave this interview. I was so hoping to try something out using an arabic scale with quarter-tones (I had some great sessions with Syrian clarinettist Kinan Azmeh to this end) but I just couldn't find a way - for now - to make them 'my own'.

But the resulting piece fits with my image of the Silk Road Project, as one giant, soulful jamboree. There are a few ideas that maybe hint at Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Southern Spain and elsewhere. In a way, I think of it a bit like the wonderful musical documentary Latcho Drom (much of which is available on YouTube) which traces the music of the gypsies from their original starting point in India through the middle east and ending with the flamenco musicians of Andalusia. I've called the piece (which is a series of four dances) Cut the Rug - which is an old phrase you say of someone who dances well.

Speaking of jamborees, what a crazy project I've landed myself with the mighty London Philharmonic Orchestra here in London. I'm to write a piece for Symphony Orchestra (the LPO), tanbur (an Iranian long-necked lute), daff (an Iranian frame drum), more daffs (possibly an ensemble of 15 daffs), 60 amateur violinists from the fantastic London Music Masters Bridge Project, a story-teller (Sally Pomme), and if we can, a spot of audience participation from the 2500+ school kids who will be packed into the Festival Hall for two consequtive days next May (part of their BrightSparks series). The story to be 'told through music' will be an excerpt from the Shahnameh, the Iranian epic poem. I'm excited because the story we've chosen features the Simorgh, whom I know from the great Persian poem The Conference of the Birds - in a nutshell, 30 birds (or 'Si Morgh') travel to find the mystical God-like bird, the Simorgh, only to find a lake and their own reflection. It's something to do with the transcendent within us all - which curiously enough is pretty much the idea behind The Firework Maker's Daughter, even if it presents itself on the surface as something much more humble. So yes..stick all that in your pipe and see what kind of smoke comes out!

Finally, there's the small matter of my piece for the 'Cultural Olympiad'. But that's easy, it only involves a fire artist, 200 choristers, a battery of horns and diverse locations around the UK which all need scouting out - a piece of cake!





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