It’s been about a month since I returned from Toronto and I’m just waking up from my post-masters hibernation. I’ve done no composing since the Soundstreams workshop, and after deadening my brain with hundred-year-old dust and pain fumes at a heritage house reno over the last four weeks, I feel ready to jump back into creative activities.
I had a fantastic time at the Soundstreams Emerging Composers’ Workshop with the Gryphon Trio, and our mentors R. Murray Schafer and Juliet Palmer (see this entry and this one). As mentioned earlier, we were to bring sketches for a new piece for piano trio to be completed after the workshop. I am primarily working with combining fragments from a folksong I recorded in Ukraine with the more timbral ideas and extended techniques I started exploring in The Child, Bringer of Light.
There is a loose narrative in this piece inspired by a group of folksongs dealing with the subject of young women growing old prematurely from hard labour and abusive marriages. One of these songs explores a beautiful metaphor for this idea. A lonely young woman throws a flower into a river hoping that it will reach her people. When her mother finds it floating in a still pool, she wonders why it has wilted despite being in water, why her daughter has aged before her time. My piece will follow the progression of this flower on the river starting with the woman’s excited anticipation of a new marriage, going through the rapids of all the hardships she encounters, and ending in that dark and still pool.
Soundstreams: Piano Trio, Sketch 1
The rough beginning exploring the nervous excitement of a new marriage.
Soundstreams: Piano Trio, Sketch 2
The rough ending, the wilted flower arriving in the still pool. I am exploring ideas similar to the opening, but cast in a darker light.
Soundstreams: Piano Trio, Sketch 3
This material was meant to go in the middle section of the piece, but it became apparent that the overall feel of the sketch doesn’t really fit in the soundworld I am exploring in Sketch 1 and 2. I will probably extract certain gestures from this sketch and reshape them into something more consistent with the opening and closing of the piece.
During the first two sessions I had with the trio, I started to suspect that the traditional notational system was not really doing a great job capturing the feel I was looking for in this piece. It was too confining. I figured out that the performers needed more room for spontaneous reactions to each other and time to engage all the timbral effects I was asking them to perform. The music needed room for stretching. After rewriting one of the sketches without measures and will less rhythmic precision, I was amazed at how the music magically locked into itself. Considering the freedom that my notation implied, it was remarkable how close the performers’ interpretation came to what I had imagined. I felt like I tapped into their natural tendencies and allowed them to simply play.
Thank you so much to the Gryphon Trio for being so amazing to work with and to the workshop organizers for creating this amazing opportunity.